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Alaska’s congressional delegation calls for US to ban Russian energy imports

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has joined calls from a bipartisan group of legislators for the state of Alaska to divest from Russia.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 1:57 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s congressional delegation has joined a bipartisan legislative effort to ban the importation of Russian energy.

“No more Russian energy should come into the United States for the duration of this bloody, horrifying, unprovoked war against Ukraine,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, during a press conference on Thursday.

In 2021, the U.S. imported around 672,000 barrels a day of Russian oil and refined products, or roughly 8% of the total oil that the U.S. imported that year, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal.

Murkowski said on Thursday she is confident that U.S. and Canadian oil companies could fill the production gap if Russian energy imports are banned.

The Alaska House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution on Wednesday, urging support for Ukraine and for U.S. energy independence from Russia. A similar resolution is expected to be heard in the Alaska Senate on Friday.

Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, is planning to introduce that resolution and said that ensuring U.S. energy independence isn’t a partisan issue, but one of national security.

“I think we need to come together to promote our responsible resource development,” he said. “It seems at every turn, we’re stopped from developing in Alaska.”

There has been frustration at President Joe Biden’s administration for canceling or suspending federal oil and gas leasing permits, including in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and more recently, in reviewing permits for the proposed Ambler Road.

European Union officials are discussing how to address vulnerabilities caused by reliance on Russian energy. The New York Times reports that Russia provides 40% of the EU’s natural gas and 25% of its crude oil.

“This resolution is meant to give our federal delegation another tool that they can use to plead with our presidential administration to allow us to responsibly develop our resources here in Alaska,” Revak said.

Biden delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday and announced a plan to tap into strategic oil reserves to shore up global markets. In response, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy urged Biden’s administration to “unleash” Alaska’s resources.

“Before this war, our country was fast-tracking renewable projects and was canceling oil and gas projects,” the governor said through a prepared statement. “We should fast-track both, traditional energy sources and renewables. We should not exclude any project that would help make us energy independent.”

Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Murkowski at the next election, released a similar prepared statement on Tuesday, urging for U.S. energy independence.

Brad Keithley, a longtime oil and gas attorney and the managing director of Alaskans for Sustainable Budgets, noted that some long-stalled projects in Alaska would take years to come online and wouldn’t make a difference in the short-term. But, he argued that the Biden administration should rebalance its push for more renewable energy with the world’s need for more hydrocarbons.

“The U.S. has the capability to increase production, the globe needs more production and the U.S. is a good source of that additional production,” he said.

Keithley explained that not all oil is created equal. Some U.S. refineries need different types of crude oil that domestic companies can’t or don’t produce, leading to crude oil imports from countries like Russia. Alaska crude could be well-suited to fill some of those global gaps, he added.

With Alaska North Slope oil selling at well over $100 a barrel, there could be more investment in Alaska production in the longer term, Keithley said, particularly in the Pikka Unit.

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