Oil industry presses Obama on Arctic drilling

Endicott was the first continuously producing offshore field in the Arctic and located about 3 miles offshore on Alaska’s North Slope.  (BP)
Endicott was the first continuously producing offshore field in the Arctic and located about 3 miles offshore on Alaska’s North Slope. (BP)

With the clock ticking on the Obama administration’s decision on whether to allow drilling in the U.S. Arctic, the oil industry is trying to apply some final hour pressure on the president’s home turf through a series of advertisement buys.

This week the Arctic Energy Center, a pro-drilling coalition that includes the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, says it will run television ads in the Washington, D.C., area to remind the president of the economic importance of oil and gas drilling on the Alaska economy.

Earlier this year the Obama administration released a draft five-year plan for offshore drilling that included two lease sales off Alaska’s north coast – one for the Beaufort Sea in 2020 and another for the Chukchi Sea in 2022. But that proposal has seen widespread opposition from environmentalists and some native groups, who argue the risk to the Arctic’s wildlife and fauna is too great.

COMMENTARY: Knowledge has helped industry drill safely in Arctic for decades

The Department of the Interior is expected to announce a final decision before the end of the year.

The oil industry argues that to cut off drilling entirely in the U.S. Arctic would put the country not only at an economic disadvantage but hurt national security.

A letter signed by 15 retired military commanders, along with William Cohen, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton – which the Arctic Energy Center says it will run in print publications and online – argues that Russia has already amassed a superior position in the Arctic while the U.S. position is weakening.

“The strategic significance of the Arctic is growing due to rapid change in the physical and geopolitical environments. Excluding the Arctic from the [drilling plan] would harm our
ability to protect our interests and to promote cooperation in the region,” the letter reads.

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