U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is seen in this 2021 Empire file photo. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is seen in this 2021 Empire file photo. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Alaska Voices: Project American leadership and resources to defend global democracy

We need to end our reliance on foreign fossil fuels TODAY.

By Rep. Don Young and Sen. Josh Revak

Russia’s unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine, and blatant disregard for other nations’ sovereignty, is a glaring example of why democracies worldwide need to establish energy independence from despotic authoritarian regimes. Western dependence on Russian oil and gas has left the United States and our allies at a disadvantage and only emboldened Russia as they bully their neighbors.

Authoritarians depend on a disengaged America that chooses to bury its head in the face of aggression from bad actors. If the U.S. doesn’t lead the charge to protect imperiled democracies, the flame of global freedom and democracy could be snuffed out. Too often, emerging democracies are left alone to ward off adversaries while established democracies, over-reliant on warmongering countries for their energy needs, stand on the sidelines. It is time to stand up for what is right. It is time to stand up for freedom.

To protect democratic ideals and U.S. long-term interests abroad, we must throw off our dependence on energy from countries who threaten us and our allies. At the end of 2021, America was importing around 8 million barrels per day of crude oil and other petroleum products. Of that number, 200,000 barrels of crude oil and 500,000 barrels per day in other petroleum products came from Russia. These numbers need to be zero.

While Russian oligarchs expend their aggression on millions of innocent Ukrainians, onerous federal restrictions are placed on Alaskan resource production. Why do President Biden’s sanctions not target Russian oil and gas? Why is President Biden harder on Alaskan energy producers than on dictators like Putin? The Biden Administration’s “woke” war on domestic oil is crushing middle-class families at the pump, and worsening a dangerous reliance on oil from foreign adversaries leaves our country strategically vulnerable.

A path forward:

We need to end our reliance on foreign fossil fuels TODAY.

Putin must be held accountable for his actions, and short-term sanctions are not enough. If we can move away from Russian energy and help other nations do the same, we can reduce Russia’s global standing and economic strength forever.

To replace imported oil, the United States should be looking at our resources right here at home. Alaskan oil and gas can fill the void left by turning off Russian imports. Additionally, as the demand for green energy expands in Europe, Alaska can fill that void as well. We support an all-of-the-above approach to energy. On top of Alaska’s vast oil and gas opportunities, we are home to hydropower, solar, geothermal and liquid natural gas (LNG). In particular, the easily extracted and transportable LNG provides further exciting opportunities. We can and should use all our options to end the stranglehold authoritarian energy producers abroad enjoy.

The Biden Administration needs to take a hard-line approach. The world is watching, and the implications of insufficiently forceful action will be severe. Before we served in elected office, both of us served in the U.S. Army. Sen. Revak spent two deployments serving on the ground in the Middle East. He knows what it’s like to be shot at and blown up. Every bullet sent his way, every gun that fired them — including the mortar round that killed his friend and wounded the senator —were made in Russia.

The United States should consider the Russian Federation to be a global pariah, unfit for doing business with the world; diplomats should be expelled, Russian assets should be frozen and seized, goods flowing between the U.S. and Russia should immediately cease, we should bolster our commitment to NATO and consider fast tracking democracies under threat. If boots on the ground are not an option, all other actions short of open conflict should be considered and implemented immediately. We must do everything in our power to limit Russian influence and power around the globe. In the effort for energy independence, Alaska stands ready to assist.

For too long, democracies have been unable to escape the grip of despotic energy-producing nations like Russia. It is time for the United States, and Alaska in particular, to be empowered to step up and responsibly develop our resources to protect democracy and American ideals around the world.

The late Sen. John McCain once said Russia is “a gas station masquerading as a country.” It’s time to ensure Russia can’t even claim the title of gas station. Alaska will lead the way. President Biden needs to end his war on domestic oil production, unleash the power of American energy, and put Alaskan energy front-and-center around the globe.

Republican Congressman Don Young represents Alaska in the United States House of Representatives. Republican Sen. Josh Revak represents Anchorage in the Alaska State Senate.

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