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Biden risks hurting the least fortunate with his oil and gas actions

Jan 28, 2021

Last week, I watched as President Biden promised a return to the “restless, bold optimism” of yesteryear.

Yet even as he opined on his commitment to govern for all Americans, his staff was quietly working to deprive vast swathes of citizens the opportunity to earn a living, lift themselves from poverty, and pursue the American dream.

These actions came in the form of executive orders – no doubt the first of many – effectively terminating the Keystone XL pipeline and oil and gas projects on Alaska’s North Slope.

Many will claim these actions are right and proper. Rising stars in the Democratic Party have long been responsible for spreading outright falsehoods about society’s ability to divorce itself from the resources under our feet.

While tweeting from phones and offices filled with every imaginable mineral and petroleum product, they demand an end to the very industry that makes the modern world possible.

President Biden, like myself, a son of Scranton’s coal country, is smart enough to know better. But the war on resources is far too valuable a source of political capital. In the words of countless political advisors, “Never lose your allies to make peace with your enemies.”

In this case, the millions of Americans who stand to benefit from inexpensive energy and the opportunity that accompanies responsible resource development are squarely in the crosshairs.

The true tragedy is that the least fortunate among us will suffer the most.

Having spent nearly 20 years living and teaching in rural Alaska, I’ve witnessed the tremendous positive impact that Red Dog Mine brought to the Northwest Arctic. Residents once faced plagued by dwindling economic options, now make nearly twice the average income in Alaska while graduation rates have skyrocketed.

Likewise, the people of the North Slope, nearly all of whom support responsible development, have worked hard to build up their health care and education infrastructure as a direct result of investment in the area.

I have also seen the human suffering that amounts from a sustained lack of opportunity. Our nation’s heartland is filled with forgotten communities and heartache. From Appalachia to the Dakotas, despair and hopelessness are a way of life for many.

Our fellow Americans grow tired of waiting for help that never arrives. The help they need is not a handout. It’s the ability to take advantage of the opportunity all around them.

We need our politicians to give them a chance instead of sending resource production to dirty producers overseas. We need Washington to understand that taking away resource development from the cleanest, best-regulated sites in the world hurts the environment.

The president is right that we will be judged by how we handle the turmoil ahead, but if he is sincere in his desire to end this “uncivil war,” he must begin by listening to the downtrodden. Alaskans stand ready to work together with the new administration.

I’m eager to get started on the big renewable energy projects that I hope will bring clean, inexpensive energy to Alaska and the nation, but these gains must not come at the expense of those who have been denied opportunity for too long.

Mr. President, I urge you to chart a new path – one that leaves behind the painful, politically driven resource wars of decades past. Let’s work together and build an America that works for everyone.

Mike Dunleavy is the 12th governor of Alaska.