Rick Whitbeck

COMMENTARY: Biden leaves behind more than Americans, weapons in Afghanistan

As Americans watched in horror at the tragic scene of U.S. Marines losing their lives in Kabul, Afghanistan last week, emotions ran the gamut from anger to frustration and sadness. A two-decade effort to bring stability to Afghanistan ended in failure and humiliation. Lives were lost. Chaos reigned at the airport. Hopeless efforts were made by many who wanted to leave the country, but couldn’t. Twenty years after terrorists used Afghanistan to launch the attacks on September 11, the Taliban flag once again flew over Kabul. America’s longest war ended in defeat. As the last American troops left Kabul this week, we left behind not only our fellow citizens, but also so many people who put their lives on the line to help us. So, too, remained military hardware, with its technology sure to be reverse-engineered by the Taliban and other countries eager to learn how to replicate its might. Simply put, the blunders of the current administration in its haste to end our involvement in Afghanistan will have consequences for decades. Also left behind, and now under Taliban rule, are trillions of dollars of mineral resources in the country. Afghanistan is known to have world-class deposits of lithium, copper, coal, gold, mercury and rare earth elements under its surface. To date, the United States and its allies have been able to keep them untapped, in spite of their value to the “green” energy movement and the massive increases to mine them to vastly increase “green” energy component production. Sadly, the Taliban and their allies will undoubtedly look to quickly exploit this failure as well. According to a recent Bloomberg article, plans may already be underway for the Taliban to work with China to mine those deposits. Should that business relationship develop, you can bet that neither partner will have qualms about using labor and environmental methods that run counter to accepted practices for much of the world. Even with U.S.-led sanctions against trade and business dealings with the Taliban in place, there are legal and illegal ways to work around them. Think that’s a stretch? Remember, China has a more-than-cozy relationship with North Korea. They both have history with bringing desired outcomes to bear — by any means necessary — in an effort to show their might on an international stage. While China and the Taliban work to bring the mineral deposits to market, the American mining industry is stuck in neutral because of misguided public policy. Efforts by anti-development groups and wealthy ideologues have made the process of permitting and opening a mine well beyond common-sense regulation. While the U.S. has incredible quantities of nearly every critical mineral and rare earth element that the “green” movement cries for, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of prospects and projects not under siege by the eco-left and misguided environmental evangelists. Whether by spreading fear about potential environmental catastrophes or through foolish efforts to place protecting wildlife above advancing human life, mining opportunities in America are required to run a never-ending, multi-year obstacle course. In the meantime, the Taliban and China plot their partnership and development of Afghanistan’s mineral riches without hesitation. While China begins to consider how to work around international pressure in doing business with the Taliban, American eco-zealots consider how to keep an American mineral project from moving forward. And while the Taliban and China strategize how to undermine America’s international leadership, the current administration lends credence to the “leave-it-in-the-ground” movement by placing environmental radicals in leadership positions throughout Washington. America deserves better. American workers deserve opportunity. Americans shouldn’t ever again see the greatest country in the world subjected to ridicule on an international stage. Leaving Afghanistan in defeat stings on many levels. Let’s hope the future doesn’t bring anything equivalent — let alone much worse — especially if it will be financed by the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska or contact him at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Will Manchin, Murkowski, Biden cave to extremists?

Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., became a lightning rod for the extreme progressive wing of his party when he stood firm in support of the filibuster. While the term “filibuster” gets thrown around — usually in conjunction with colorful language — a lot by folks in Washington, D.C., it is a sensible procedural step for the majority of America. It keeps a party with a slight majority from ram-rodding bad policies through Congress. It represents a check-and-balance to executive overreach, and in this case, a roadblock to many of the Biden Administration’s most radical campaign priorities; ones that would harm Alaska and our jobs, revenues and in areas related to states’ rights. As it stands today, relative moderate Joe Manchin might be the most powerful member of the U.S. Senate, with Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski right behind him. They, and their centrist colleagues in both parties, can move legislation forward, or kill it in their body. Right now, infrastructure spending, federal voting legislation, Supreme Court packing and the so-called “existential threat of climate change” are being championed by zealots who don’t want compromise, but rather, radical transformations with the way America views and acts on their issues. Without the filibuster, 51 Senators (or 50 and uber-progressive Vice President Kamala Harris casting a the tie-breaking vote) could pass legislation, things could look very different for Americans moving forward. Filibusters aren’t the only topic with fires burning around it in our nation’s capital. Also on the hot seat is an area crucial to Alaska: energy policy. Every Alaskan is touched in numerous ways by federal energy priorities. From fuel prices to upholding legal lease sales, and nearly a third of our private-sector jobs being driven by resource development (not to mention our annual Permanent Fund Dividends), what happens in Washington, D.C. has a direct impact on our day-to-day lives. With the Administration kowtowing to extreme viewpoints on a “just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, which includes losing American energy independence and ceding energy market dominance to other foreign governments, Alaskans should be furious with most of the decisions coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Even the one “win” for our resource-centric economy — Biden announcing his administration would not fight the massive Willow project in the NPR-A — was followed by his Interior Department shuttering development of completed, binding leases in ANWR’s 10-02 area. For you and me, and everyone who works in or relies on our energy sector for a paycheck or to heat their homes or power their vehicles here in Alaska, blocking the insanity of the Biden agenda is a good thing. After all, we don’t want these bills ever seeing the light of day, let alone passing. But for the wildlife-over-human-life activists on the Left, it’s a different story. As The Hill reported last week, “On Friday, a few dozen activists from the Sunrise Movement flocked to the White House — and plan to do so again — to urge Biden to abandon infrastructure talks with Republicans and pass lofty climate change legislation with just Democratic votes. They asked for Biden to directly meet with progressive leaders, including their executive director Varshini Prakash, and ensure the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps that they say would put 1.5 million people back to work. ‘To watch him prioritize Republicans in creating his plan [rather] than the young people who elected him, we cannot let Biden off the hook,’ Audrey Lin, an organizer with Sunrise, said at the Friday protest.” Which leads us back to Manchin, Biden and Murkowski. For the two Democrats, each will be under immense pressure from their far-Left base. During the first few months of the administration, Manchin did his pal Biden a favor by shouldering much of the political pressure. Then the President threw his long-time ally under the bus last week by saying he votes with Republicans more than Democrats (which is not true, by the way). With Manchin taking the high road, but still unwilling to acquiesce to the fringe and move far to the left, the barbarians are at the gate for both men. No wonder the President decided to leave the US for his first foreign trip. Unfortunately for him, many of his problems will be there when he returns. If they can’t pull Manchin or Biden left, the next attacks will be against Murkowski (and, to a lesser extent, Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney). Astute Alaskans have seen the ads on social media and elsewhere imploring the Senator to support the jobs-killing PRO Act, to back drastic climate change legislation and to even support court-packing. Let’s hope the Senator remembers that Alaskans elected her to stand up to radical, job- and economy-killing legislation. Alaska’s bright energy future quite literally hangs in the balance. Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaskans must stand against reversing four years of progress

On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States of America. For Alaska’s energy community, the next four years are certain to look quite different from the previous four. Before we look forward, let’s remind ourselves of how important the last four years have been. Under conservative leadership, ANWR was opened. That, in and of itself, was a monumental achievement made in concert between the administration and our congressional delegation. But that was just the beginning of successes in the energy arena. NPR-A lease sales were held, Tongass timber harvesting was initiated, wind and solar projects began, and mining opportunities were advanced. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s “Save Our Seas” initiatives will help keep Alaska’s pristine waters clean. A polar class icebreaker will patrol the Bering and Chukchi seas, providing for security and opportunity alike. Alaska’s been blessed to have pro-responsible development energy policy under Republican leadership these past four years. American energy dominance, increased energy jobs, and lower energy costs for consumers were all major achievements. Which brings us to the next four years. If President-elect Biden is to be believed, things sure will change that on Jan. 20. According to his campaign website, Biden plans to “permanently protect” ANWR from development, via a day-one Executive Order. He also promises the same action to ban permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters, as well as to require permitting decisions to account for climate impacts. From there, his hand-picked team of eco-warriors, ahem, Secretary-designees for the Departments of Energy, Interior, and Transportation, along with the Director-designee of the EPA, will work to roll back the regulatory progress made over the last four years. Add the administration’s dual “climate czars,” former Secretary of State John Kerry and former EPA Director Gina McCarthy, who will work outside of congressional authority to implement some of the most radical aspects of Biden’s agenda, and you have an eco-left “dream team.” To that end, Power The Future sent a letter to the Biden/Harris transition team and inquired about any recent Alaska visits by Secretary-designees Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., (Interior), former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., (Energy), or EPA Director-designee Michael Regan. The vast majority, 62 percent, of Alaskan lands are federally managed. If none of the nominees have ever set foot in our state or seen first-hand the projects and opportunities they will be impacting on a daily basis, they won’t be able to represent the best interests of Alaskans. Their actions will have an impact on real people, existing and future jobs, and rural and urban communities across our state. Some Alaskans are excited about this transition. The environmental warriors who espouse a “wildlife-above-human-life” philosophy are most likely thrilled with Biden’s choices to lead Interior, Energy, Transportation, and the EPA. After all, each has backed radical elements — if not the entire plan — of the Green New Deal. That overreaching set of initiatives would cost Alaskan households over $84,000 in the first year of its implementation! That would be a direct threat to Alaska’s energy economy. So as Jan. 20 approaches, let’s celebrate our state’s advancements under the outgoing administration, and stand together as Alaskans to stand up to new policies that will hurt our state. The thousands of Alaskans who balance environmental stewardship with responsible development each and every day deserve that support. They haven’t stopped working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to bring reliable, affordable energy to market. Let’s ensure they aren’t forced to do so under the crushing reforms of the Biden/Harris administration. 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]

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]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Proposals at state, federal level would end energy independence

Thanks to President Trump, America has finally achieved energy independence and is pushing for worldwide energy dominance. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Democratic Party is pushing its radical agenda that would make America the worldwide punchline of a sad joke. Despite these efforts to destroy a critical industry, Americans are benefitting greatly from the Trump Administration’s support of natural gas and oil. President Trump has diligently removed unnecessary, archaic restrictions that once shackled the United States’ ability to responsibly, safely and efficiently develop its abundance of natural resources. These actions have brought overseas manufacturing jobs back to America, given the U.S. more leverage in international negotiations, and revitalized an economy that was decimated during the Obama Administration. Looking at the policies and politics of the current Democratic presidential front-runners, it’s clear that all of this progress is at risk. Particularly for Alaska – a state coming out of a recession that still has the highest unemployment rate in the nation – the Democratic candidates’ platforms and priorities would be crushing. A few of the candidates’ far-left pledges are worth noting: o The Green New Deal is a radical proposal that would ban fracking, severely restrict the entire oil and natural gas industry, and cost Alaskan households over $100,000 in just its first year of implementation. o Ending fossil fuel leasing projects on federal lands, which would take away Alaska’s ability to use its natural resources from land like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. o Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizaebth Warren both pledged to ban fracking on day one of their Presidency, whereas Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar would still regulate it significantly. o Sanders and Warren also propose banning exports of our nation’s fossil fuels. These types of proposals might be good for California, but they certainly aren’t in the best interest of Alaskans. Any of those candidates, should they ascend to the White House, would inflict tremendous damage to Alaska’s economy. They would rather see oil, gas, minerals and rare earth materials stay in the ground in the name of unproven talking points. With the Democratic presidential primaries intensifying and candidates competing for the national spotlight, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening right here at home, where there is another more immediate threat to the Alaskan way of life. The Fair Share Act is a measure slowly making its way toward appearing on an election ballot sometime later this year. In a short-sighted effort to close the state’s deficit, this initiative would increase taxes on the oil industry by over 300 percent. This would imperil Alaska’s entire oil and gas sector and the employment of nearly one-third of all private-sector jobs in our state. Robin Brena, a longtime attorney who has made millions of dollars suing the major producers in Alaska, is the primary sponsor of the Fair Share Act. He’s spent his career punishing the industry that has long provided Alaskans with so much, and this is just his latest attempt to restrict it, just as the potential for increased production across the North Slope is exploding. Brena is trying to do to Alaska what the leading Democratic presidential candidates are trying to do to America: thwart investment, kill jobs, and perpetuate a development strategy that will lead to decreased investment in our leading employment. Come election time — for both the Fair Share Act and the presidency — this agenda does not deserve to be rewarded with votes from Alaskans who actually care about our great state. Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national non-profit advocating for energy workers, while fighting back against environmental extremism and the ideologues who fund radicalized efforts to thwart American energy dominance.

GUEST COMMENTARY: American energy dominance shields consumers from MidEast turmoil

Turn on the TV. Read the Daily News or other papers. Check out online media. All are inundated with story after story on the current turmoil in the Middle East. Iran. Iraq. Trump. Soleimani. It is hard to find anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on what is happening in the Middle East. However, in Alaska, the silence has been deafening from the radical environmental movement. Why are they so quiet when it comes to an energy situation that is so vital to America’s — and Alaska’s — way of life? Maybe it is good to look back at some history and see if we can uncover the reason for their muteness. Over the last 50 years, instability in the Middle East was met with a spike in oil prices that hit every family in America. Our country witnessed long lines for gasoline and higher prices at the pump nearly every time there was a hiccup thousands of miles away. In the most extreme example, when OPEC decided on an oil embargo in 1973 prices jumped 350 percent causing layoffs and a severe economic downturn. The paradigm caused both Republican and Democrat presidents alike to bemoan the situation and promise to work toward American energy independence. Today, we’ve finally achieved that promise, partially because of the efforts of Alaska’s energy workers. Not long after the killing of terrorist Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one Iranian military leader threatened an attack near the Strait of Hormuz — where almost 20 percent of the world’s oil travels. Senior Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh said that “the Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there.” What is the early impact to the price of a barrel of oil? As of Jan. 7, it’s actually around the same price in the days following the threat as it was in the days before Solemani was killed. Alaska’s energy workers have historically played a key role in developing the oil and natural gas that continue strengthening the position of the United States against vulnerabilities that have crippled our economy in the past. For the first time in generations, American energy independence is protecting our economy from instability. Which brings us back to the silence from Alaska’s eco left. The ones protesting lease sales in the NPR-A and ANWR. The ones asking for public outcry when an oil producer begins exploration on its leased lands. The ones leading the climate strikes: taking Alaskan youth who already have some of the lowest academic performance in the nation out of school to protest an industry that provides approximately $2.4 billion a year in government funding and pays the majority of the cost of state government. Alaska’s energy workers help protect our economy and our national security; they deserve all the gratitude we can offer. As those same green groups think about driving to their next protest in gas-powered cars or sit comfortably in their offices warmed by natural gas, I hope they — and all of us — recognize their hypocrisy. Not only do they personally benefit from the energy sources they are trying to destroy, they are also working directly against the United States — and for foreign entities who seek to undermine our country’s economic stability in an uncertain world. ^ Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future. Contact him at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Nothing new for hard-working Alaskans

Two weeks ago, for a moment, the energy industry was in the national spotlight. As usual, this opportunity wasn’t used to recognize its hardworking men and women or praise them for the growth they’ve brought to our country. Instead, it was used to recirculate the same tired, unproven talking points as always. At halftime of the Harvard-Yale football game, a renowned annual tradition, climate change activists rushed the field in protest of their schools investing in fossil fuels. This was done in the name of environmentalism and was praised by several Democratic presidential candidates including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. As usual, the protest and ensuing coverage was riddled with disinformation and misinformation.   The benefits of the natural gas and oil industry to Alaska are undeniable. It accounts for one-third of Alaska jobs, as every job in the oil industry is connected to 20 additional jobs in the state’s economy. The hard work of these 110,000 men and women account for about half of the state’s overall economy. Last year alone, the industry generated $2.4 billion, which was about 80 percent of the state’s revenue. This year, it’s projected to be even more. These results don’t just happen; they’re the product of hard work. While some are planning chants, grabbing coffee and going to protest football games, others are grabbing winter jackets, saying goodbye to their families and going to the airport for their commute. It takes about an hour and a half for most oil workers to fly into the North Slope, where much of their work takes them. Some employees then need to take smaller flights to even more remote locations. Once there, they typically stay for one or two-week long tours. This means one or two weeks of 12-hour days (some workers complete even longer shifts), doing hard physical labor in temperatures that can vary by nearly 150 degrees throughout the year. This is what it takes to be the engine of Alaska’s economic growth, and, whether you see it or not, it’s happening every day. Sadly, none of this hard work is inspiring enough for a group of Ivy League students to protest a football game, and none of the results it produces are sexy enough to capture the attention of the national media. Instead, voices in New Haven, Conn., are amplified, as are their chants to ban fossil fuels: the driving force of Alaska’s economy and its peoples’ jobs. For Alaskans, particularly those in the energy industry, this is nothing new. The hard work goes unnoticed, and the results are unappreciated. Last month’s protest is only the most recent incident in a long history of undermining every-day workers. Fortunately for us, this doesn’t stop Alaska’s energy workers from doing their job. Now, it is our responsibility to make sure the response is as loud as the protests, and the truth is louder than the disinformation. Alaskans working in the energy industry deserve our support, appreciation and respect. Those three words were completely forgotten on that football field two weeks ago. For Ivy League students who are seemingly at the top of their game, that was a fumble of major proportions. 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]

GUEST COMMENTARY: House wastes time in attempt to deny opportunity to Inupiaq people

Environmental extremists have a secret weapon to offset the common-sense approaches to responsible development most Americans support: Ideologue politicians. Men and women whose elections are financed by some of the hundreds of millions spent by environmental non-government organizations to influence public policy. Can you imagine if Alaska’s congressional delegation put forth a bill to forbid growing apples in Washington, shut down movie-making in California, outlaw citrus farming in Florida or stop corn cultivation in Iowa? The residents of those states would become unhinged, crying foul and expressing disdain over the loss of jobs, economy and future. But, one such effort by one such politician reared its head in the U.S. House of Representatives. California Democrat Rep. Jared Huffman, a former employee of the radical environmental organization National Resources Defense Council, conjured up enough support in the chamber to pass legislation putting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off-limits for development. Passing the House 225-193 on Sept. 12, largely along party lines, Huffman’s side claimed victory for the environment, the caribou and the indigenous way of life. Rep. Don Young stayed true to his long-time support of responsible development, voting “no” on the measure, and chiding his colleagues for wasting its time. The extremists’ emotional outpourings on ANWR preach of the sacredness of the land; it is a beautiful place, the last untouched wildlife area in North America and a place where caribou roam free. Some even recite the language of the Gwich’in, who live hundreds of miles away from where oil would be extracted. The Gwich’in call the area “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins) – a bumper-sticker slogan exploited repeatedly by the anti-development cabal. The extremists conveniently ignore the perspective of the only Alaska Native group who lives closest to the potential development, own land within ANWR, and significantly favor responsible ANWR development: the Inupiaq people of the Arctic Slope region. The federal government specifically set aside the coastal plain (often referred to as the 1002 area) as a future economic zone, understanding its location near the giant Prudhoe Bay field. Apparently, the ability for an indigenous community to improve its own economic and social well-being doesn’t make for a cute bumper sticker. Fortunately for America and its drive for energy independence and dominance, H.R.1146 is guaranteed to die as it reaches the U.S. Senate. Senate President Mitch McConnell and his majority have said as much, with Alaska’s Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan leading the fight against the abominable legislation. Even if it was to pass that body, President Trump has guaranteed a veto. Realizing that ANWR is on federal lands, and therefore, subject to viewpoints and dialogue from all across America is one thing. Recognizing that Alaska’s fragile economy — driven by responsible resource development — is still worst in the nation in unemployment numbers is another. The eco-extremists — both individual, corporate and non-profit — are spending money to damage Alaska’s economy, in an area Congress set aside to help create and sustain jobs. They get away with these actions because of the volume — both in money and voice — that drowns out those of reasonable Americans. Hopefully, the House can get back to work on legislation that actually improves Americans’ lives, hopes and future, rather than appease their eco-extremist campaign funding sources with actions that would do irreparable harm to our great state. Alaska needs jobs. Alaska needs additional oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and Alaska needs the voice of reason to rise up and drown out the cries of the fanatical environmental activists, who insist that wildlife be identified as more important than human life. Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national non-profit advocating for energy workers and development opportunities, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Narrative of fear doesn’t need facts to win

Alaskans know that the future of our state depends on our ability to responsibly extract natural resources. Perhaps more certainly than citizens of any other state, we understand how our economy and livelihood depends on whether we are allowed to utilize our own land as we please, without interference from the Lower 48. That’s why recent attempts from some politicians in Washington to limit the rights of Alaskans are so counterproductive. Just last week, Former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out an energy plan that included a ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic. Senators and representatives from states like Rhode Island and Maine – Republicans included – have rolled out legislation to do the same. Recent history suggests that every major development in Alaska will be “controversial” going forward. The proposal to expand Alaska’s economy by permitting responsible development in ANWR is just one example. Yet there is nothing wrong with that word; it simply means there are strong opinions on both sides. But “controversy” isn’t a reason to stop progress. Here’s why: Every major development will be met by a narrative of fear perpetrated by its opponents, often environmental activist groups. Stoking fear is the easy way to try and halt development. It doesn’t rely on winning the facts or making the best case – it’s all about denigrating opponents and being the loudest voice in the room. The funny thing that typically accompanies these fear-inducing declarations? They’re nearly always ended with a plea for campaign donations. Environmental activists do this because it works. Fear-mongering produces a fortune for the groups who use them. In Alaska, we’ve seen these narratives since before I was born. In 1968, with the plan to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System underway, eco-groups wrongly predicted the end of caribou herds and the destruction of the pipeline due to earthquake activity, and the demise of Alaska Native cultures. Check your watch – it has been 51 years, and none of those have happened. You may look at those predictions now and see them as absurd, but many believed them in the moment. After all, those statements preyed on many peoples’ fears. Eco-groups are using the same tactics today, but with even larger platforms on social media, e-mail blasts and online-organized activist rallies. They use these tactics to stifle development, often by trying to halt the already-long permitting process that accompanies major projects. There are rules for approving resource projects. Lots of requirements. Lots of time for the public to weigh in. The rules tell you the terms and how to prepare. For mines, there is a book printed by the Environmental Protection Agency, titled EPA and Hardrock Mining: A Source Book for Industry in the Northwest and Alaska. This book outlines the requirements for pursuing approval for mining projects, and knowing the information in the book is critical to the prospect of having any mining opportunities in our state. It simply costs too much money and time to enter a project without a clear understanding of the requirements. For those willing to undertake the process, years and several million dollars (at a minimum) of scientific and technical work will be required. Impact studies must be done, branches of the federal government must approve, and the public has plentiful opportunities to comment. All this must be done while fending off the alarmists hard at work on their narrative of fear. As Alaska’s future resource opportunities develop, here’s hoping that the activist groups who speak factually-inaccurate, emotionally-charged fear in hopes of dimming Alaska’s bright future are seen for what they are. If fear is given credence over fact, Alaska will lose out on significant opportunities. Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on energy and resource development.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Tesla’s warning highlights the eco-left’s hypocrisy

Tesla, the world’s current “it” auto manufacturer, is concerned. Their American-made electric vehicles, or EVs, require steady supplies of mined materials: lithium, copper, cobalt and more. And our current capacity might not be enough. Sarah Maryssael, Tesla’s global supply manager for battery metals, reportedly warned at a closed-door industry conference last week that a global shortage of critical EV components is coming. Tesla is warning of “long-term supply challenges” because of “underinvestment in the mining sector.” Tesla is right to be concerned about underinvestment in the mining sector, but who should they be concerned with? We need to be asking why hasn’t there been enough investment when we know the need for these elements is coming? The answer is simple: the environmentalist movement. For years, environmental groups have worked to raise the cost of opening new mines, especially here in Alaska, where we have plentiful opportunities. They threaten lawsuits, file legal actions, bring in protestors — actions that cumulatively make it more expensive and more difficult to open new mining facilities. And here’s the crazy part: The same environmental activists who are trying to push “green” energy and transportation are the people fighting the mining activities that can help make it happen. It’s hypocrisy at its finest: they demand green energy but protest the resources needed to make EV’s and battery storage a reality. In Alaska, for example, the public outcry from environmentalists against the Pebble mine has been deafening. Eco-activists say we must choose between mining and fishery health, and they have relentlessly pursued all means necessary to shutter Pebble before it has a chance to work through the permitting process. Don’t forget, Pebble would be primarily a copper mine — one of the inputs that Tesla is warning could face shortages. The same environmental extremism has begun against the whole of the Ambler Mining District, an area in Northwest Alaska that holds world-class deposits, because it will take a new road through state and federal lands to access the projects. The Aktigiruq deposit features zinc, gold and lead. Arctic VMS has identified copper zinc, lead, gold and silver in its deposit landscape. Bornite has significant copper and cobalt resource potential in its claim area, while Taurus has notable deposits of copper, gold and molybdenum. Graphite Creek has the largest large-flake graphite deposit in the U.S. All of these projects would help in one way or another to improve output of materials needed to build a more robust green energy world. If the eco-activists had their way, these resources would remain in the ground. Their protests then make no sense. Will the environmental extremists cede their moral high ground, stop fighting against the mining industry, and realize that resource extraction actually serves their goals in the long run? My guess is no. To do so would be to give up a potent fundraising method used to vilify responsible resource extraction, and the energy workers who are employed at those projects. Environmental groups in Alaska and abroad should heed Tesla’s warning. America can lead the way, develop our resources and create the inputs needed for new, low-cost forms of energy and storage — if only these groups would stand aside. 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]
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