Murkowski to Senate: Drill the Arctic or my state gets it!

Opposes bipartisan energy and climate bill if no ANWR drilling; Lieberman says, “That’s a deal-breaker.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has decided to hold the fate of her state, nation, and world hostage to drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as explained by guest blogger Daniel J. Weiss, CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy.

Murkowski gave a long impassioned speech when she introduced her “Dirty Air Act” – a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution threatens public health and the environment.  One of her complaints was that the threat of impending EPA Clean Air Act implementation would force the Senate into action without ample time for deliberation.

Today, however, as we seek the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re being presented with a false choice between unacceptable legislation and unacceptable regulations. We’re being told, threatened really, to “pass a bill now or the economy will suffer.”

Senator Murkowski’s aversion to threats, however, does not extend to threats that she makes.  She told E&E Daily (subscription required) that she would oppose a global warming bill unless it included oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska:

Murkowski said yesterday she would not consider voting for the climate package without drilling in ANWR. “I’m still saying ANWR is one of the must-haves,” Murkowski said.

That’s right, Senator Murkowski issued the type of threat she complains about in her speech.  Unless Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) include Arctic drilling in their global warming bill, Murkowski won’t vote for it.  She made this threat even though Congress rejected Arctic drilling in 2002, 2003, and 2005 – and the Republicans were in the majority the latter two years.

The Arctic would do little to enhance America’s energy security.  The Department of Energy determined that it would take at least ten years to produce any oil from the Arctic.  It concluded that oil from the Arctic – home to America’s last polar bears and porcupine caribou – would make little difference in overall world oil supplies.

Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States.

Despite these facts, Murkowski is willing to condemn the planet to more carbon pollution and global warming if she doesn’t get her way.   And Alaska is the first state damaged by unchecked emissions.

  • Alaska’s temperature increased up to 4 degrees Fahrenheit – double the increase in the rest of the nation.
  • Thirty one villages are imminently threatened with erosion, flooding, climate change.  Twelve of these villages are already being relocated, at a cost of up to $2.4 billion.
  • Oil production in the North Slope of Alaska requires ice roads to avoid damage to the tundra.  The ice road season has been cut in half over the last thirty years due to warming.

Yet Senator Murkowski wants to take climate change legislation hostage, to be released only if Arctic drilling is included in the package.  Fortunately, Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman won’t capitulate to her demand.  E&E reported

“That’s a deal-breaker,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). “That’s just not going to happen. We’re looking at a lot of things, and that one is a no-no.”

“It’s not in our bill,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Senator Murkowski’s double standard also applies to the timing of when she will force a  Dirty Air Act vote.   During the introduction of her resolution, she made impassioned pleas for prompt action.

The decision to offer this resolution was brought about by what will happen in the wake of the EPA’s decision to issue the endangerment finding. You see, it is not merely a “finding.” It’s actually a floodgate, and under the guise of protecting the environment, it’s set to unleash a wave of damaging new regulations that will wash over and further submerge our struggling economy.

Despite Senator Murkowski’s claims of urgency to stop the “floodgate” of greenhouse gas pollution reductions EPA is poised to “unleash,” she plans to bide her time for maximum political – and perhaps campaign – advantage.  E&E reported that

Murkowski signaled yesterday that the vote might be delayed. She is still looking at mid-March, she said, “but there’s not a lot of time in mid-March. And who knows what’s going on with health care. We’ve got a window of opportunity beyond that that we can advance it, so we’ve got to figure it out.”

Murkowski has a window of several months to call for a vote on the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which establishes special procedures for disapproving agency rules. The act gives the senator until late May or early June, said the senator’s spokesman Robert Dillon.

“There’s no reason to hurry,” Dillon said. “She’s using the time to maximize her time to talk to senators.”

Her delay also provides an opportunity for big oil and other special interests to advertise in favor of the Dirty Air Act, and unleash their lobbyists to personally arm twist senators to support her.  And it provides her with more time to raise campaign cash from oil, utility and other interests while she is doing their bidding.  Murkowski has received the third most oil and gas money this election cycle, with her Dirty Air Act cosponsor Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) first.

So Senator Lisa Murkowski says she wants to block EPA from setting global warming pollution standards because they’re a threat that could force the Senate to legislate.  But she threatens to oppose pollution reduction legislation unless Arctic oil drilling is part of the package.   And she warns that EPA’s establishment of standards poses an immediate threat to the American economy, but Murkowski plans to dawdle before offering her resolution to block EPA to gain political advantage.  Senator Murkowski’s blatant hypocrisy exemplifies what troubles Americans about their government.

JR:   In a 2006 speech, Murkowski explained just what climate change was doing to her state (see “Lisa Murkowski proposes to fiddle while Alaska burns“):

“¦ one area that I believe we cannot lose focus on is the human dimension.  Our policies of today, and our policies of tomorrow, have a direct impact on those who live in the Arctic region”¦.

When I visit the Native villages in northern Alaska, I ask the village elders what climate change means to them. They don’t speak about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or attempt to debunk the now infamous hockey stick theory.

They tell me what they have personally observed over the years. Native whaling captains tell me that the ice pack is less stable, and that there is more open water requiring them to travel greater distances to hunt. The snow pack is coming later and melting earlier than in years past. Salmon are showing up in subsistence nets in greater numbers across the arctic.  Different types of vegetation now grow where they never grew before.  The migratory patterns of animals have changed.  Warmer, drier air, has allowed the voracious spruce bark beetle to migrate north, moving through our forests in the south-central part of the state. At last count, over three million acres of forest land has been devastated by the beetle, providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires. To give you some perspective, that is almost the size of Connecticut.

So we recognize that times have changed, things are changing, and we need a new Arctic policy.

Apparently her new Arctic policy is to block all efforts to stop greenhouse gas emissions from rising.  In short, her new Arctic policy is the same as the old one “” do nothing and let the whole damn thing melt and burn (see “M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F“).

14 Responses to Murkowski to Senate: Drill the Arctic or my state gets it!

  1. prokaryote says:

    Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., on why he declined to co-sponsor Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s bill to block EPA from issuing greenhouse gas limits:

  2. Jack says:

    How much oil lies beneath ANWR?

  3. Jack says:

    WikiPedia is my friend:

    “In 1998, the USGS estimated that between 5.7 and 16.0 billion barrels (2.54×109 m3) of technically recoverable crude oil and natural gas liquids are in the coastal plain area of ANWR, with a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels (1.65×109 m3), of which 7.7 billion barrels (1.22×109 m3) lie within the Federal portion of the ANWR 1002 Area”

    Approx 4 month’s worth of world oil consumption at 85million barrels per day.

  4. Sou says:

    I imagine that one day in about twenty or thirty years time, there will be the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials. As long as the statements, decisions and actions of these people remain documented, the evidence will be ample. It won’t be pretty and some innocents will undoubtedly get caught up in it.

    In no way am I wishing it, but human nature can be unforgiving and people are always looking for someone to punish. The way things are going with all these delaying tactics and environmental vandalism, such trials in the future are not out of the question.

  5. Jonah says:

    Here’s DOE’s report summary:

    Between 2018 and 2030, cumulative additional oil production is 2.6 billion barrels for the mean oil resource case, while the low and high resource cases project a cumulative additional oil production of 1.9 and 4.3 billion barrels, respectively.

  6. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Why can’t we just leave the oil in ANWR until we deal with AGW? It”s not going anywhere. It could be a more valuable resource in the future, when we learn how best to extract it with minimal environmental damage, used for better things than just burning it up. Why drain America first?

  7. Leif says:

    Senator Murkowski: Not only is Alaska experiencing the nations highest effects of climatic disruption but the cold waters of Alaska absorb more CO2 than warm, giving Alaska the highest ocean acidification readings. Consequently Alaska will be the first state to experience acidification disruption to the ocean food chain. The one Alaska resource that vies with oil is fisheries. Fisheries perhaps even more in that the entire state use fish as not only a monetary resource but a daily food staple. The Alaska Department Fish and Wildlife is charged with protecting the indigenous fisheries, first and foremost. I would expect the ADFW to be weighing in on this matter forthwith. So tell me Sen. Murkowsky, while villages may be able to move to higher ground, what is your plan when Salmon are required to eat jelly fish?

  8. Alan Frederick says:

    Doesn’t matter what we think – the Senator from ExxonMobil has spoken.
    Notice she doesn’t promise to vote FOR the climate bill if the drilling is included – only that she won’t vote for it if it is not. There is a big difference. IMHO, she has no intention of voting for it in either case.

  9. Leif says:

    A couple of points about the Alaska oil.

    First the United States wastes in inefficiency approximately the amount of oil that the Alaska pipeline produces. Since we are throwing that money out the window already, we could give it straight to Alaska and cut out the middle men, saving not only money but greenhouse gases and the environment in the process.

    Second. It is my understanding that currently most of the Alaska oil is shipped to east Asia. This is done to minimize shipping costs, thus maximizing profits. Asia being closer than the East Coast where most of the oil is consumed.

    Come on folks, wake up!

  10. I have always been against drilling in the ANWR. There is no rational defense of it, for the reasons that people have pointed out.

    But please remember that Murkowski is not talking about rational energy policy. She is talking about getting pork for her state, as Senators often do.

    If she is talking about trading her vote for some pork, maybe that is a good sign. Maybe it means that she thinks a climate bill will pass, so instead of trying to stop it, she is trying to get something out of it.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:

    Sou — don’t worry, we won’t have anything like Nurenburg trials, because the deniers will quickly start blaming us: “Why didn’t you warn us???” and worse “If the climate scientists were so smart, why didn’t they just tell us in plain English, instead of faking the data??” etc.

    Bill Waterhouse — “drain America first” is a great line. It is a good counter to “drill here, drill now.”

  12. Bill W says:

    Only a politician could refer to “the now infamous hockey stick theory” in the same speech in which she details a list of global warming effects happening right now in her state. Does she really not get that the temperature rise shown by the hockey stick is exactly what’s causing those effects?

  13. Chris Winter says:

    Senator Murkowski complains that more time is needed to debate the merits of climate-change legislation. I’m tempted to respond to that complaint by noting that plenty of debate on the subject has already taken place in the Senate — debate that led nowhere. By contrast, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that, while not ideal, would be a good start. But I see the senior Senator from Alaska did introduce a measure:

    “The last claim I’d like to address are the allegations about who helped draft my September amendment, which was never offered and is no longer on the table. Not only are the allegations categorically false, they highlight the unwillingness of opponents of this measure to engage in the real policy discussion we should be having. The question that so many of the individuals and groups opposed to my efforts have failed entirely to answer, is if they honestly think that EPA climate regulations under the Clean Air Act would be good or bad for America.”

    So what about this amendment of Senator Murkoski’s? Is it a typical Republican “poison pill”? Or does it have some merit? I haven’t got time right now to look it up myself.

  14. caribousteaks says:

    A few misconceptions on ANWR or Alaskan oil: 1) Alaskan oil is not exported nor would ANWR oil be exported. The demand in the Lower 48 precludes that without need for Congress to reinstate its export ban legislation which has controlled Alaska oil’s market since 1977. 2) Its physically impossible to produce, transport and consume any oil (or resource) all at once. Stating timelines of consumption for 100% instant production, transportation and consumption void of any other sources is nonsense. TAPS has a capacity of 2.1mbpd and that is shipped to refineries in WA, OR and CA. Divide 2.1mbls into the mean 10.4bbls and you can see how long this might last. 80 odd countries supply oil to America which is all mixed in together with domestic production to meet our needs. It is impossible to separate that out or “shut off the import tap” to assume 100% domestic production. 3) No one knows how much oil is in the 10-02. Stating you do and then making timelines of consumption is pie in the sky thinking. Until test wells are drilled and results studied no one knows. That is why exploration is so important and why most of the ANWR debate is pure speculation. 4) Oil in the ground is not a bank to be tapped into at will. It takes years and years to legislate, permit, explore, build infrastructure and produce any resource. Along the way economics, politics and litigation to name a few factors influence the process. It is unrealistic to assume you can just go there and produce at will. To add pressure to the situation is the rate of consumption of oil and gas varies but in most all predictions state is set to rise for the next 20-30 years along with population growth and the economy. To exacerbate this is the fact that world competition for all oil will increase over time. So to say save it in the ground like a bank is unrealistic and unwise, and smacks of the same illogic as “it will take 10 years to develop”…30 years later “it will take 10 years to develop”
    So long as oil and gas will be a prime part of our lives, which without question it will be even in 50 years time, the demand for opening the 10-02 and other areas will always be there. Locking up land produces no energy and does nothing to solve our energy and consumer product needs. Production provides energy and much needed products to our market and allows for a realistic transition to a new energy future. And best of all it can help to pay for that transition.