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Debate Night: President Defends Energy Record Weeks After Interior Bans Drilling on 11.5M Acres of 'Petroleum Reserve


President Barack Obama during Tuesday's presidential debate claimed that his administration has taken an even-handed approach to both tradition fuel sources (i.e. coal and oil) and "green" energy.

While many Blaze readers are familiar with the president's most recent, uh, "successes" in clean energy, how many know about his administration's most recent drilling ban?

In case you missed it, the U.S. Department of the Interior in August made the decision to close off from drilling “nearly half of the 23.5 million acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which would seem to fly in the face of the president's oft-repeated claim that his administration is fostering some sort of oil boom.

“The area is called the National Petroleum Reserve because in 1976 Congress designated it as a strategic oil and natural gas stockpile to meet the ‘energy needs of the nation,’” the report adds.

“Alaska favors exploration in nearly the entire reserve. The feds had been reviewing four potential development plans, and the state of Alaska had strongly objected to the most restrictive of the four. Sure enough, that was the plan Interior chose,” the report adds.

According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the plan will:

… help the industry bring energy safely to market from this remote location, while also protecting wildlife and subsistence rights of Alaska Natives." He added that the proposal will expand "safe and responsible oil and gas development, and builds on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure that's needed to bring supplies online.

However, despite Mr. Salazar’s most sincere assurances, very few in the energy industry (or Alaska for that matter) agree with him.

“In an August 22 letter to Mr. Salazar, the entire Alaska delegation in Congress -- Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young -- call it ‘the largest wholesale land withdrawal and blocking of access to an energy resource by the federal government in decades,’" the Journal reports.

Yes, even Sen. Murkowski is against the drilling ban.

Interior’s decision, the letter adds, "will cause serious harm to the economy and energy security of the United States, as well as to the state of Alaska."

And there’s more for Alaskans to be concerned about. According to the Journal: “The letter also says the ruling ‘will significantly limit options for a pipeline’ through the reserve. This pipeline has long been sought to transport oil and gas from the Chukchi Sea, the North Slope and future Arctic drilling.”

Again, Salazar offers assurances, namely, that a pipeline could still be built, but, you know, that whole Keystone XL pipeline thing has left Alaskans doubtful.

Lastly, Alaskans are afraid the National Petroleum Reserve will be turned into yet another political football:

The greens now want Congress to rename the energy reserve the "Western Arctic Reserve" to give the false impression that it is a fragile wildlife area. Some parts of the area are environmentally sensitive, but those 1.5 million acres (around Teshekpuk Lake) had already been set aside. Most of the other 11.5 million acres are almost indistinguishable from acreage owned by the state that is being drilled safely nearby.

But let’s pretend for a second that the administration isn’t trying to prevent drilling. How much oil are we looking at here?

“Some early federal estimates put the range between six and 15 billion barrels of oil, but in its latest survey the Bureau of Land Management projects closer to one billion,” the Journal report.

“State officials and industry experts put the figure much higher based on the earlier surveys and improved drilling techniques,” the report adds.

Granted, no one knows for sure how much oil is actually there, but that’s what private investors and drillers are for. That’s what they invest their own money in.

“The oil and gas industry isn't in the business of drilling dry holes on purpose,” the report adds.

So, yes, while yet another federally-funded "green" energy investment has filed for bankruptcy, the Obama administration has just imposed a million-plus acre drilling ban on Alaska.

Just keep all this in mind the next time you hear certain people talking about “all of the above energy” policies.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Front page photo courtesy the AP.

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