Alaska Governor Says State Needs More Oil Drilling to Pay for Climate Change Damage

Okay, then.

Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker has interesting ideas about how to fund his state's global warming problem. Becky Bohrer/AP


This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Yep. In an interview with the BBC’s Matt McGrath, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker just made perhaps the most remarkable statement I’ve ever encountered.

“We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of the change in the climate,” Walker said. Relocating these villages is proving to be “very expensive,” he continued.

McGrath asked, “So you’re saying that given the climate change impacts in Alaska, you need to be allowed to continue to drill and explore and produce oil to pay for some of those impacts in Alaska?”

Walker’s response: “Absolutely.”

The response on Twitter was immediate and harsh, especially from climate activists:

Unfortunately, this is the situation we find ourselves in as America trends toward petrostate politics. As the Hill notes, Alaska has no sales or income tax and derives a significant portion of its revenue from fossil fuel production on public lands. In a very real way, the recent dip in oil prices has hit the state hard—just as climate change impacts have begun to intensify. In one particularly stark example, although this year’s wildfire season was a record-breaker, the state had fewer resources with which to attack the blazes due in part to budget cuts linked to lower oil prices.

The situation has grown still worse in Alaska in recent weeks: In late September, Royal Dutch Shell suddenly announced it was abandoning plans to drill offshore of Alaska’s northwest coast after it failed to locate oil in any meaningful quantities during its controversial exploration this summer. As McGrath notes, that oil may have given a boost to the flagging Trans Alaskan Pipeline, now just one-quarter full due to flagging production on Alaska’s North Slope. Without oil as a reliable income source, Alaska’s politicians have begun a tough look inward to re-envision their state’s future. Apparently, that reality check hasn’t yet reached the governor’s office.

Alaska is America’s front line on climate change. What’s happening there is, in many ways, a preview of what the rest of us are in for should the world continue on something resembling the worst-case scenario path. Let’s hope when that time comes, politicians in the Lower 48 won’t be quite so shortsighted.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate