I Will Take on Wall Street to Protect Alaska

    A few years ago, an Alaska fishing trip by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink was interrupted by a smoky haze from wildfires in Siberia. In his telling, that experience was a catalyst for his now-infamous letter calling for a halt to development in the 49th state.

    The irony is that the actions of Fink and other Wall Street megabanks are sending resource production to the dirty oil and gas fields of the Russian tundra. In doing so, they speed the very calamity they are ostensibly hoping to prevent.

    Climate change is a global phenomenon. Whether atmospheric carbon is produced in Alaska, Texas, or Russia has no relevance. Canceling a cutting-edge horizontal-drilling project on the North Slope doesn’t stop demand for oil; it simply shifts production. Rather than pumping that oil from an Alaskan oil field, where stringent environmental regulations prevent flaring, extractors will harvest that oil from a dirty, carbon-spewing well in Russia.

    The net result? The environment gets warmer. More polar ice melts. More Alaskans are denied economic opportunity. Revenue that could have been used by the North Slope Borough to fund desperately needed schools and health clinics is diverted to Russian oligarchs and Saudi sheikhs. Money that Alaska needs to fund renewable-energy projects is instead used by Russia to build more Arctic oil and gas infrastructure.

    But it doesn’t end there. Like every decision we make in life, canceling drilling on the North Slope comes with unintended consequences.

    You see, there is a larger threat looming in the Arctic – one that we are actively funding by sending jobs and production to Russia. As the polar ice melts, the former Soviet Union is rapidly moving to stake claims under Arctic seas, where 10% of the world’s remaining petroleum lies. As we feed the Russian resource economy, Moscow’s Arctic operations accelerate exponentially.

    Already, we’ve seen the reopening of 50 Cold War installations near the Arctic Circle.  Brand new nuclear icebreakers are rolling off Russian assembly lines, marking a stark contrast with America’s single operational ship. Just last month, three Russian gas tankers made a historic journey, hauling their loads out of the Arctic winter and down Alaska’s coast.

    We can’t afford to be naïve about the motives of Wall Street banks. While the mega-rich like Larry Fink put on a show about saving the planet, they are knowingly underwriting those who are destroying it. When they fly in to Bristol Bay in their private jets, they lodge just miles from some of the poorest communities in America – places desperate for the very economic opportunities these billionaires have decided to take away.

    It’s these everyday Alaskans – people looking for jobs to feed their families – who shoulder the burden of Wall Street’s decision to sell the world a lie.

    This isn’t a personal attack on investment bankers. I’m aware that it’s self-interest, not honesty, that makes the world go ’round. Trading a shrinking traditional energy sector for one that will require trillions of dollars of investment, all while masquerading as the “good guys,” makes perfect business sense.

    But when Fink’s self-interest threatens to destroy the future of my state, I have no choice but to intervene. I have no choice but to showcase the hypocrisy of the billionaires and environmental profiteers who spread falsehoods about development in Alaska.

    They will never tell you that the central Arctic caribou herd has actually grown from about 6,000 to 30,000 animals since Prudhoe Bay development activity began, or that the “threatened” Porcupine herd of caribou now numbers 218,000 animals – the highest in recorded history.

    They won’t tell you about how Alaska’s stringent environmental regulations far outclass those in the rest of the nation – that we pump our gas back into the ground instead of flaring it, that we operate the most technologically advanced pipeline on the planet, that we don’t let our mines turn the tundra yellow with acid water.

    Why won’t they tell you?

    Because attacking Alaska is easy and profitable. In the case of the Wall Street bankers, they’re playing a long game by betting on a new industry. Others, including many environmental groups, are collecting their profits up front. Take the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Resources Defense Council, for example. Did you know that their CEOs earn $665,748 and $526,053, respectively? I’ll let those numbers speak for themselves.

    It’s not just an acceleration of global warming and a transfer of wealth to Russia that’s at play here. There are real people suffering at the hands of these profiteers. Every job shipped to Siberia and the Congo represents not only immense environmental harm but also an Alaskan family denied access to opportunity so that a Wall Street banker can make a few more bucks.

    So Larry, my message to you is simple: I’m truly glad that your wealth allows you to fly up here to enjoy Alaska’s resources when the weather’s nice, and I don’t begrudge you for chasing profits at our expense.

    But I, too, am selfish.

    I’m selfish because I want the best opportunities for the Alaskans who elected me. I want the same boundless possibilities for my children that I have been blessed with throughout my life. I want to leave behind an Alaska that’s stronger, more self-sufficient, and more resilient than the Alaska I fell in love with so many years ago.

    For that reason, I cannot allow your hypocrisy to go unchallenged. The stakes for Alaska and our planet are just too high. 

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