Public forum on off-shore drilling draws many voices from across Anchorage

On Sept. 22, The University of Alaska Anchorage and the Anchorage Chapter of the International Association for Energy Economics(IAEE) co-sponsored a free public forum on the topic of off-shore drilling in Alaska.

IAEE was founded in 1980 as a professional outlet to exchange ideas and discuss issues in energy economics. It is a non-profit organization that sponsors a $1,000 scholarship for the top original energy research in energy economics by a student in Alaska attending college.

At the forum, ADN columnist and host of the KAKM’s “Anchorage Edition,” Michael Carey; Rodger Marks, the president of the Anchorage chapter of IAEE; David Ramseur, the Chief of Staff to Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich; and John Schoen, Alaska’s Senior Science Advisor and the Vice President of Shell’s Alaska Venture, discussed the risks and rewards of future off-shore drilling.

Edward Itta, Mayor of the North Slope Borough, was supposed to attend the forum, but was unable. In his place, his assistant Harold Kern discussed the topics at hand.

Senator Mark Begich was not present, but made comments about offshore drilling on a video recording showed at the beginning of the forum.

Begich vocalized his thoughts and disappointments about the Obama Administration’s efforts toward research on offshore drilling in the Arctic.

“We are trying to come up with a way to help reduce the amount of oil and gas consumed, but Americans will keep using oil and gas,” Begich said.

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About two-thirds of oil consumed in the United States comes from foreign sources, according to Begich.

“We get oil and gas from country’s who don’t like us, so why not use our own resources,” Begich said.

Those jobs could help the job field in Alaska’s economy, but we are giving them away to foreign countries, stated Begich.

“Iraq is one of the United States leading oil producers, and that fact makes many people question the purpose of American troops being there,” Ramseur said.

The topic of offshore drilling and its risks became a frequently discussed topic after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“When there is an oil spill, they do wreak havoc,” Marks said.

The members of IAEE and the representatives all had the same idea: research needs to be done in the Arctic Ocean.

“Alaska Arctic Ocean is the least researched ocean in the world,” Schoen said.

There needs to be more federal research help in the Arctic, according to Begich.

As of now, Norway is the leading country in research on Arctic oil spill recovery. They will not, however, inform any foreign countries on the results of their tests.

There are currently many organizations in the Arctic, but “no one can tell us what agency is doing what. We must have better coordination and communication,” Ramseur said.

Since Shell’s return to Alaska in 2004, it has spent thousands of dollars in oil spill response research, according to Slaiby.

Many suggestions were made as to the most efficient way to clean up an oil spill.

“Alaska’s main Coast Guard base is in Kodiak, we need smaller bases on the Slope, closer to the Arctic, in the case of emergency,” Ramseur said.

Shell’s vice president, Pete Slaiby, disagreed, however.

“We should be confident in our own plans for a clean up, making a Coast Guard base closer is unnecessary,” Slaiby said.