Alaska rolls out draft climate policy

May 10 (UPI) — State residents should review a draft climate plan that balances the need for oil and gas revenue against environmental issues, Alaska’s governors said.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot published a draft climate policy that states developing oil and gas resources can be part of a responsible and diverse economic plan.

“Development of these resources can be consistent with continued diversification of the economy, increased opportunities for citizens, and an intentional focus on clean energy investments,” the draft stated. “The state recognizes its obligation to encourage this strategic transition, while strengthening Alaska’s economy.”

The state Department of Revenue expects prioritizes petroleum in its state revenue for fiscal year 2018. In total, the department said revenue could decline by about 15 percent for the year to $10.9 billion, but attributed that to strong returns in the previous fiscal year.

The draft climate plan called for “realistic expectations” and a “practical approach” toward an energy transition in Alaska. To that end, Alaska would encourage investments in increased energy efficiency, renewable energy production and electrification.

By 2025, the state would work to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from their 2005 baseline. Energy efficiency could improve by 15 percent and renewable energy could account for 50 percent of electric generation in the same time span, according to the draft policy.

“The State of Alaska will develop an energy transition scenario planning and strategy that leverages current and potential oil and gas development and the benefit of increased clean energy alternatives,” it added.

Natural gas for the state economy could serve as a bridge fuel toward cleaner energy options. This week, the Alaskan division of British energy company BP reached a gas sales agreement with the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. for product from the North Slope.

AGDC wants to build pipelines and associated infrastructure to process state gas into liquefied natural gas, a super-cooled form of gas that has more maneuverability than other piped resources. The project includes an 807-mile pipeline across Alaska that could serve the export market.

The U.S. Interior Department, meanwhile, outlined plans for a leasing environmental impact statement for an oil and gas leasing in the 1.6 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge designated as the so-called 1002 Area. Walker said opening ANWR up to drillers presented a historic opportunity for a state struggling with budgetary issues amid declining oil and gas production.

Opening the protected Alaskan wilderness area to drillers is controversial. The draft climate policy’s only statement on the Arctic is mention of a practical approach that can “serve as a model for the U.S., the Arctic and the rest of the world.”

The state revenue forecast estimates average oil production of 521,800 barrels of oil per day in 2018 and 526,600 bpd for fiscal year 2019. Federal data show the five-week moving average for state production at 500,000 bpd, down 5 percent from the same period last year.

State residents are called on to submit comments by June 4.