Rick Whitbeck

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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