Murkowski talks oil, environmental lobby and federal overreach

A movement of “wealthy, liberal environmentalists” are ignoring reality in favor of an extreme view distant from the common American’s desire to aspire to a better quality of life, said Frank Murkowski, a former Alaska governor.


In a speech titled “Who Owns Alaska,” Murkowski, a Republican who also served as a U.S. Senator for the state from 1981 to 2002, said that quality of life can’t come from the government, which environmentalists view as a charity. It can only come from the natural resources of the state and nation, he said.

In Alaska that means oil, and Murkowski contends that same group of environmentalists is shaping national policy that prohibits the state from developing untapped oil potential and providing a better quality of life for all.

“If you ask who owns Alaska, the influence is not corporations, it is not independent wealthy business people,” he said. “Who controls Alaska? These policies are set by and an elitist, environmental, powerful lobby. Make no mistake about it.”

Before touching on the bulk of his presentation, Murkowski talked about the loss of the timber industry in Southeast and the benefit of the oil and gas industry in Cook Inlet.

“How fortunate you are to be able to maintain that and to rejuvenate that compared to another part of the state where they basically lost their industry and their livelihood,” he said.

Murkowski said it is important to understand that the state is 90 percent dependant on revenues derived from the oil industry and while production decreases from aging North Slope oil fields, the federal government continues to protect a trove of untapped oil.

He said multiple attempts over decades to open those areas, such as NPR-A, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Arctic’s Outer Continental Shelf were foiled by the environmental lobby.

And, those views are still prevalent as exploration in Arctic waters progresses, he said while referencing Shell’s multi-billion dollar OCS campaign and the recent grounding of the Kulluk drilling rig off of Kodiak.

“There was no damage to the environment, but it colored, if you will, the water in the minds of those who don’t want to see any development in the OCS area,” he said.

If those three undeveloped areas were tapped, it would fill the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, he said.

“We could do more than fill the pipeline over a period estimated to be about 10 to 12 years,” he said. “The significance of that speaks for itself — we’d have a pipeline full of oil.”

Murkowski asked then why the federal government is so reluctant to explore and develop on land it owns for the benefit of the nation.

“That’s where you have to question, ‘Where in the hell is the logic?’” he said. “We’ve got better technology. We do it more correctly than any place else in the world. We’ve got the market for it. Why isn’t it happening?”

After his presentation, Murkowski was asked what ordinary citizens can do to help. He said the only way to fight environmental groups was to launch a massive public relations campaign to get people to understand Alaska’s potential and possible contribution to the betterment of the nation.

He said that is a worthy investment because the state would be “investing in the truth.”

“Alaskans understand that we can do things right up here,” he said. “We have the best technology anywhere, we have the most productive labor force and why can’t we prevail in communicating the contribution that we can make positively to the economy, nation and the state? That’s a big order, but that’s the work that’s cut out for us.”


Brian Smith can be reached at