GUEST COMMENTARY: Four Alaska projects with fate tied to a Biden administration

Let’s assume for a minute that Jan. 20, 2021, sees a new president sworn into office.

That occurrence will be a bitter day for some; a day of rejoicing for others.

Where will Alaska’s energy community fall? We have a good idea, based on the priorities laid out during the campaign by the Biden-Harris team. They very well could issue executive orders reversing much of the progress made toward American energy independence during the past four years. But then again, they may not.

If Joe Biden does end up living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years, here are four projects he should champion — not vilify — as so many of his supporters will be calling for.

The Pebble Mine: If President Biden is serious about creating a ‘renewable revolution’, he is going to need copper. Lots and lots (and lots!) of it. The largest copper deposit in North America sits underground in the Pebble deposit in Southwest Alaska.

Now, the eco-Left will scream about its location; over 100 air miles (and 230+ river miles) from Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon fishery. But the plans to mine the copper, gold, molybdenum and rhenium found in the Pebble deposit have been clearly shown by the Army Corps of Engineers to be no threat to the salmon. In fact, the final environmental impact statement goes a step further, and states it’ll co-exist with salmon in both Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet.

The Ambler Mining District: If you were to compile a list of strategic minerals and rare earth elements that are needed for “green” energy development, as well as the US military and other high-tech applications, and then compare that list to what lies beneath the ground in the Ambler mining district, chances are you’d see quite the match. The district could lessen the importing of many of these needs from China, Russia and other countries who aren’t always on the US’ good side.

ANWR: Yes, I know that the Biden campaign website specifically says he’ll close ANWR under a Day One executive order. But that move would be severely short-sighted, when North Slope oil and gas development is not only good for the U.S. treasury, but also much lower carbon-emitting than areas like the Permian and Marcellus basins, where flared gas creates a larger carbon footprint.

Also on the positive side of the ledger are the tens of thousands of US jobs that will be associated with responsible development in ANWR; something the extremists pushing to keep this area shut forget. Another fact about ANWR often forgotten or misstated by opponents: When Congress authorized the Refuge, they also specifically approved the 10-02 area for potential future development. Congress knew what a jewel it could be in the crown of U.S. energy production. Too bad the radicals fighting against it forget that bit of history.

The Tongass: A recent record of decision allows for a repeal of the “Roadless Rule,” which could create a renaissance of sorts for Southeast Alaska’s timber community. Sound management of forests is necessary to alleviate potential fuel sources for any fires that may arise. We’ve seen unkempt forests turn deadly in Oregon, Washington and California the past couple of years.

In addition to sound management practices would be the jobs created in an industry that has lost nearly 90 percent of its jobs in the past 20 years. Rejuvenating those would be a good feather in President Biden’s cap, as long as he can get past the “wildlife-over-human-life” belief system that comes from extremist anti-development crowds.

If America is going to have President Biden beginning in January, he and his administration need to understand the importance of easing in — rather than driving it home with a sledgehammer — changes that could dramatically affect current and future energy workers in our great state.

Here’s hoping he and his inner circle read and reflect on these words. Alaska’s energy community deserves at least that much.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a nationwide non-profit focused on supporting energy workers, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them. Contact him at [email protected].

Updated: 
11/18/2020 - 9:27am