The Obama administration, citing environmental concerns, has banned drilling on half of the vast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in a move decried even by Alaska’s congressional delegation.
“The price of gasoline, which was $1.84 a gallon the day President Obama took office, has more than doubled since, willfully aided and abetted by an administration that claims we can't drill our way to energy independence as we ignore vast reserves of North American energy that dwarf OPEC's and we sit on 100 years' supply of petroleum,” Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) stated in an editorial.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), not to be confused with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the east, is a 23.5-million-acre, Indiana-sized tract on Alaska’s North Slope. It was established by President Harding in 1923 to ensure oil supplies for the U.S. Navy.
The desolate NPRA has been described as the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States and includes a point 120 miles from the nearest village or usable road.
In 1976, the reserve was transferred to the Interior Department and Congress designated it as a strategic oil and natural gas stockpile to meet the “energy needs of the nation.”
But in August, Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that new drilling would be allowed on half of the reserve while the other half will be off-limits to oil and gas exploration.
Environmentalists had lobbied to protect the habitat of caribou, eider ducks and other Arctic species.
“The move drew praise from environmentalists but sharp criticism from oil and gas proponents who said it would restrict the industry’s ability to tap the nation’s hydrocarbon resources,” the Washington Post reported.
The off-limits portions of the reserve are “the most productive areas” of a tract that IBD says contains 2.7 billion barrels of oil and 114 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Alaska’s congressional delegation — Sens. Mark Begich (a Democrat) and Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Don Young — call the administration’s action “the largest wholesale land withdrawal and blocking of access to an energy resource by the federal government in decades.”
They also said the move “will significantly limit options for a pipeline” through the reserve to transport oil and gas.
Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s group director of upstream and industry operations, said the plan “continues to leave domestic energy resources, jobs and government revenue off the table.”
IBD concludes: “The move is typical Obama sleight of hand: Take credit for increased oil production on public lands that you had nothing to do with, lock up resources on federal lands with the exception of places the oil companies find unprofitable or unpromising, then blame them, not your administration, for driving up prices.”