During the height of the north slope Willow project approval uncertainty earlier this year, I suggested that rather than mollify climate change and ecological protection interests with the withdrawal of off shore arctic development area, that instead a grand bargain should have been created to approve Willow in exchange for a timeline and commitments to decarbonize the exploration, production, and transformation of oil and gas in Alaska. Since then, I’ve seen a slow drip of news that areas of the Arctic offer a viable winter wind resource that complements the summer sun. Today’s ADN provides an example of actual progress! Doyon Drilling installs 2 wind turbines near Prudhoe Bay oil field
Backing up a year, imagine if Hillcorp, CPA, Alyeska, and the oil and gas support industry had announced plans for north slope decarbonization to stabilize arctic resource development from ESG/Climate change investment pressure and how that path might have nudged Willow forward. Rather than a carbon “bomb”, the project might have been a carbon and Alaska “boon”.
A decarbonized project and regional plan would also have set a precedent and catalyst for decarbonization in our state, which so far seems to view greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as a problem for the rest of the world to address. (At the same time, we focus on snowplowing, finding more Cook Inlet gas for power and heating our homes, and keeping the pipeline 25% full to avoid paying taxes.)
Regardless of the climate impacts, the Willow project remains a problematic development that may not ever be worth the price Alaska will pay in the short term with reduced general funds that will pay for the development tax credits. See my original willow post, Willow – Can we afford this? However decarbonizing our economy is becoming more practical, as the news today from Doyon illustrates. Another example is the work announced in March by producers Shell and Petrobras who have agreed to a five year upstream, decarbonization initiative in Norway.
Alaska could lead, follow, or try to block climate change initiates with its fixation on oil and gas projects, but as the news today shows, the potential illustrates, and the work in other parts of the world demonstrates; decarbonization and energy transitions will happen.
For my friends who are all-in on all-green fully decarbonized solutions and would have preferred that the Willow project never be approved for climate change reasons, I’m convinced the clean, green changes we must have will only be practical and accelerated with significant decarbonization of the current energy systems needed to transition our economies.and produce the green energy systems. Alaska must be a part of this transition, and Doyon is leading by taking a positive step forward that shows us what the past might have been and what the future will be.
(And now we wait to see what price our public services, education programs, and investment in economic development of our stagnant economy must pay in the next five years to subsidize the Willow project development.)