Alaska Gov. Says Drilling in ANWR Can Help Fund Climate Policies

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Alaska Gov. Bill Walker offered a global warming policy that has environmentalists spinning: drill, baby, drill!

Walker told BBC News Monday he “urgently” wants to fund global warming adaption programs by drilling in the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge (ANWR).

“We are in a significant fiscal challenge,” said Walker. “We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate.”

“I don’t see anyone putting together contribution funds to help move Kivalina [a village threatened by climate change]; that is our obligation, we stand by that – we need to figure out how to do that. But those are very expensive – we have about 12 villages in that situation,” Walker added.

The Obama administration currently treats ANWR as a federally designated “wilderness” area, meaning oil and gas drilling are off-limits. Environmentalists vehemently oppose drilling in ANWR to protect the region from environmental harm, but opening up the region to drilling could put billions of dollars in government coffers.

A Yale study in 2007 showed that the oil beneath ANWR could be worth $374 billion at oil prices close to today’s. According to the Energy Information Administration, there is a 95 percent probability that at least 5.7 billion barrels of oil are recoverable in ANWR.

Alaska’s state government is heavily reliant on oil and gas revenues, but low oil prices are putting a stranglehold on state finances. The state requires that oil be $117 a barrel to balance its budget, but worldwide prices are currently hovering between $45 and $50 a barrel and are likely to remain low.

So, unless new drilling is approved, Alaska will face a serious “fiscal gap” that will only continue to grow without serious cuts. The Obama administration has allowed some drilling off Alaska’s coast, but the effort — spearheaded by Royal Dutch Shell — was abandoned earlier this year after test drilling didn’t turn up enough oil and gas to justify continuing at current prices.

Shell pulling out of the Arctic gives Alaska few options of where to get new drilling approved. ANWR is the most promising option.

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