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Back to the budget brink

Jul 18, 2019

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Alaska’s oil industry struggles amid climate change

Molly Wood and Scott Tong Aug 31, 2015
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President Barack Obama is visiting the state that oil built Monday. He’ll spend three days in Alaska focusing on the effects of climate change. A lot of those effects are most pronounced in the arctic and come from burning oil and fossil fuels. However, reducing the use of oil is a hard sell in a state that’s so dependent on drilling and transporting it. 

In Alaska, 90 percent of the state budget relies on oil, and about a third of jobs can be traced back directly to petroleum, but the state is in some economic trouble. Alaska’s government assumed that oil would be selling for $105 a barrel this year, but it’s currently selling for $40 a barrel. That leaves the state with a big deficit problem.

A long-term problem is that oil production has fallen to a quarter of what it was in the 1970s. If the Trans-Alaskan pipeline flow gets too low, the oil has to be warmed up. This costs the state money and perpetuates a negative cycle.

“Warming melts the ice, which leads to more drilling, which leads to more warming,” says Marketplace’s Scott Tong.  

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