U.S. Senator Mark Begich and Shell Exploration EVP David Lawrence Tackle Arctic Policy Issues
Commentary: Yesterday, the Resource Development Council for Alaska held its annual luncheon. (Watch here for a coming audio link.) I'm guessing that 800 people filled that 600 person Howard Rock Ballroom at the Sheraton. Having forgotten to make a reservation, to my delight Brad Keithley, a friend and attorney, called to say he had an extra seat at his table. What a pleasure it was to be there, too. My kind of people. Hard working entrepreneurs, business folks who realized where real wealth comes from: not from subsidies, grants, donations and taxes on others. RDC President Rick Rogers first introduced Senator Mark Begich (NGP Photo-l) who proficiently discussed his Alaska natural resources agenda. He also referred to a, "letter to the editor" connected with his remarks on OCS and an upcoming visit of Senators led by Barbara Boxer. I was pleased that the Daily News had teed up the issue of a proposed "Arctic Citizens Advisory Council" with its readers in its Sunday Editorial, and followed that with my Op-ed piece on the same subject yesterday morning. I'm pretty sure that nearly all 800 attendees had read both Senator Begich's Yin and my Yang. Many came to me expressing appreciation for my position. I won't go into details about the 5 minute exchange Senator Begich, his Chief of Staff David Ramseur (NGP Photo-l below) and I shared afterward, because it was personal and not completely relevant. The bottom line is that, 1) I would not change the Op-ed piece I wrote, except for a devious little typo, and 2) we agreed to stay in touch on this and other issues and I don't expect the good relationship we've shared for over 20 years to suffer from yet another policy disagreement between us. Here are some other highlights of his presentation: 1) energy bill: "Senator Murkowski worked hard to make sure it contained some Alaska provisions." 2) environment: "There is no question that Alaska sees the impact of climate change; Alaska is 'ground zero' from that perspective". 3) On upcoming visit of his colleague Senators: "What we have to do is get the Senators up here. They nay not be in line with us on ANWR," but he emphasized that they could be on other issues. "As these Senators come to Alaska," he said, "I'm going to need your help," again referring to a 'letter to the editor'. 4. Gas Pipeline. "I'm very pleased to see TransCanada and ExxonMobil getting together as well as the Denali progress. You'll hear talk a lot about gas in the Senate because I want that to be the agenda." The Keynote Speaker, David Lawrence (NGP Photo-r above) Exploration EVP of Royal Dutch Shell, gave perhaps the best oil industry, corporate-level speech I've heard in the last 10 years over multiple Federal and State venues. Lawrence announced the company would be building an icebreaker for Shell's Arctic work and introduced the builder, Gary Chouest (NGP Photo-r), who delivered a personal appraisal of the oil industry's impact on Louisiana--from a shrimp fishing family and business perspectives. Back to Lawrence's comments. They are important for the candor and Alaska investment and the raw courage they represent in today's climate of politically orchestrated sound bites. I think our NGP readers will find these highlights motivating if not inspiring: 1) Alaska's responsibility and opportunity: "The role Alaska has played and the role Alaska WILL play on resource development and the future of energy is unquestionably larger than any other state, and frankly most countries. So, yours is an enviable place in the world". 2) Alaska's Choices. "It is not a question of oil and gas versus renewables, or renewables versus biofuels, or biofuels versus oil and gas. It is not a matter of OR at all. It’s a matter of AND – we need all of the above." 3) Alaska's relationship with renewables. "Optimistically, we believe renewables could provide around 30% of the world’s energy by the middle of this century, up from 3% today. But where will the other 60- 70% come from? Places like Alaska, we hope. Why – because the resource base is huge – another potential Gulf of Mexico scale resource...." 4) Alaska is 'Ground Zero'. "Unfortunately, Alaska, particularly the offshore, is ground-zero in the misguided effort to put us in an ‘”either / or world “ - where fossil fuels play no role in the bridge to an energy future. For economic progress, revenue generation, jobs, energy security AND protecting our environment, it all needs to come together – oil and gas, renewables, biofuels, CO2 management – a world of AND." 5) On environmental opposition.
"Five of the largest environmental groups in the world have become rooted in Alaska.... Their strategy is simple: form local partnerships where possible to lend a “face” to the fight against energy development. Pure numbers are not important here but names are and that was never more evident than in April when the Washington D.C. Circuit Court ordered the Department of Interior to vacate its approved 5-year OCS leasing plan. The plaintiffs in that case include at least three international environmental groups and one local indigenous group. That local group might be hard-pressed to fill a table at this luncheon. That table could influence an outcome for a country that already imports 60% of its oil how quickly that number will grow to 80%. And that table in the back could drive the US Federal Treasury, (which could use some cash right now), to refund over $10-Billion in lease bonuses because of a 5-year OCS leasing plan that was, in layman’s terms, voided on a technicality." 6) Comparing today to the TAPS, 1970s-era atmosphere. "Imagine, for a moment, how drastically different Alaska would look today if not for a pipeline project that, in reality, was made possible by one vote. One vote changed the energy landscape in and outside of Alaska for decades. Fortunately, that vote was in favor of a project that was one of the most significant of its time. But had that vote gone against the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the U.S. would still be getting its 700-thousand barrels a day. It just wouldn’t be coming from Alaska – where environmental and safety standards are the most stringent in the world." -dh.