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Trans Alaska Pipeline System: Happy 35th Birthday!

An editorial from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expounds upon the economic and strategic importance of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) on the occasion of its 35th anniversary:

35th anniversary of TAPS, June 20, 2012

Since oil first flowed down the 800-mile pipeline on June 20, 1977, TAPS has delivered more than 16.6 billion barrels of oil. For Alaskans, that translates into more than $171 billion in revenues to the state treasury. …
TAPS once carried nearly 2 million barrels of oil a day from the North Slope to the port of Valdez, but is now down to almost a quarter of that. Today, Alaska is no longer America’s second-largest producer of oil, having been surpassed by North Dakota. And North Slope production continues to decline by 7 percent annually.

Without new oil production, throughput in the pipeline could fall enough to threaten its future viability. Shutting down the pipeline would mean closing up shop on the North Slope. Alaska’s oil — like its massive natural gas reserves today — would be stranded with no way to market, leaving the state scrambling to replace the 85 percent of its annual revenue that today comes from oil.

We should all wish TAPS a Happy Birthday and thank a (mostly) bygone generation of decision makers who had the foresight and conviction to make it happen.

But in the story of the passage of the TAPS enabling legislation through Congress there is an object lesson:

Energy policy is way too serious to be entrusted to Democrats.

In 1973, the Senate was deadlocked on a vote to set aside legal and environmental challenges to the pipeline’s construction. Even with the country in the grips of OPEC’s first oil embargo, even with pro-energy Democratic stalwarts like Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) and Russell Long (D-LA) in the Senate, the deciding vote was cast by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. It passed 50-49. One of the dissenting votes was cast by young Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). (A similar vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline, you may have noticed, is currently going nowhere.)

At the time, the pipeline was expected to cost $3.5 billion and to provide access to 10 billion barrels of oil. The line was built in just over 2 years at a cost of $8 billion, all private dollars. It crossed three major mountain ranges in some of the world’s most challenging conditions.

In its 35 years of service, the pipeline provided up to 2 million barrels per day of domestic oil at a time when it was most needed. Predictions of dire consequences for the caribou and musk ox populations proved unfounded.

These days, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is the only semi-reliable Dem when it comes to energy issues. There are a few Democratic Congressmen from the energy states, but they are an endangered species.

As the November election approaches, some find it easy to be disenchanted with certain policies of certain Republican politicians. It may be immigration reform, budget control, health care, fiat currency, etc., etc. When those voters give voice to their frustration, it sounds something like this:

There’s no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. I don’t agree with Candidate XYZ’s position on my pet issue, so I may not even vote.

Well, pardon my French, but that’s just stupid.

Even if we were to accept the "no difference" premise on every other issue (which I don’t, BTW), there is such a huge gulf between the GOP and the Dems on all things energy, that issue alone justifies full and enthusiastic support of Mitt Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate and Congress.

Cross-posted at Maley’s Energy Blog.


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