July 15, 2024

Two actions taken by the Biden Administration are raising energy prices and harming Alaskan natives.

First, the expansion of the Roadless Initiative into the Tongass National Forest is forcing Alaskan natives to pay outrageous prices for electricity.

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This might come as a surprise, but native Alaskans living on remote islands in the Tongass National Forest pay more than five times what most Americans pay for electricity. The average retail price for electricity in the U.S. was 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2022. But this small, low-income community pays 65 cents per kilowatt-hour even though their supplier – the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative (IPEC) – is a consumer-owned nonprofit.

IPEC’s production costs are high because it is forced to generate most of its electricity using diesel. To lower energy prices, the cooperative has been trying to shift to small hydroelectric and geothermal plants. It has already developed two hydel units. But its efforts are stymied by a federal ban known as the Roadless Rule, preventing access to the abundance of hydroelectric and geothermal sources in the region that can be sustainably utilized.

The state of Alaska is currently suing the Biden Administration over its imposition of this rule in the Tongass. In much of Alaska, electricity (as well as phone and internet services) are provided by private parties or co-ops such as IPEC; our own Susitna Valley electricity and phone service are both provided by local co-ops. But here in South-Central, we have access to the main grid, and hence to the primary electrical generation; the Tongass does not have that luxury, and the Biden Administration seems oblivious to this fact.

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Second, the Biden Administration is essentially shutting down offshore drilling in Alaska and other coastal waters.

The Biden administration is planning to hold three offshore oil lease sales through 2029, the lowest number of auctions in the program’s history in a move that’s likely to anger both Republicans who back the industry and environmental advocates seeking an end to drilling on federal land and water.

Under the long-awaited plan released by the Interior Department Friday, no lease sale would take place in 2024, making it the first year in the modern program’s four decades that companies will be unable to bid for parcels in the Gulf of Mexico or the waters off Alaska. 

Instead, the department would schedule one sale each for 2025, 2027 and 2029 — a far cry from the previous plan’s 11 lease sales over five years and the minimum the department can schedule while still pursuing the development of offshore wind farms under provisions that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin wrote into the Inflation Reduction Act.

U.S. Crude is over $90 a barrel, as of this writing. Natural gas is on the uptick as well. Supply and demand, as always, applies, and the Biden Administration seems determined to choke off the supply of oil and gas.

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So, what do these two actions have in common? Well, a number of things.

  • They will increase energy prices. This is already happening, and it’s important to note that increasing energy prices affect all of us — not just native Alaskans in the Tongass, although that’s bad enough. Rising energy costs affect everything Americans do, and the increased cost lands hardest on those of us least able to afford it.
  • It’s being done in the name of “climate change.” 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said as much:

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland also said three proposed sales were enough to further the administration’s development of offshore wind power in the Gulf. 

“The proposed program, which represents the smallest number of oil and gas lease sales in history, sets a course for the department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities,” Haaland said in a statement.

The Administration is citing both decisions are being taken to push the move towards “sustainable” energy, but in the case of the Tongass, the Roadless rule actually is preventing the development of geothermal and hydroelectric plants in an area where they are eminently feasible. And in the case of the drilling decision we see above, Sec. Haaland cites a desired move to offshore wind energy, which has problems of its own.

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Once again we see economically damaging decisions made in the name of the environment, said decisions made by people who have little or no experience out in the actual environment. 

Once again, we see decisions made that raise energy prices and reduce reliable delivery, said decisions made by people who are generally wealthy and living in large cities, who are shielded by their position and influence from the consequences of those decisions.

Once again, the Biden Administration has taken actions that cause economic damage to the American people — and the members of that administration are oblivious.

2024 can’t come fast enough.

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