Alaska’s energy future and its economic one are inseparably linked. But which presidential candidate can best help the state navigate that future? That depends on who you ask.
Don Kubley was an energetic host at a recent Republican meet-and-greet in Juneau, offering me and everyone else who showed up some of his homemade moose stew.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the candidate Kubley was stumping for on this night, isn’t backing Trump. But Kubley is, and that’s because of one issue: energy.
“Totally, number one, no other issue,” he said. “Help us. Build our economy back. Bring us jobs. Bring us investment. Cut down regulations. Cut down on government. Encourage private investment and businesses to grow. Cause we’re in a deep, deep hole right now.”
Kubley is a fourth generation Alaskan, born and raised in Ketchikan. He said he worked on the trans-Alaska pipeline to get through college. Then he was chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Terry Miller. Now, he’s a lobbyist who also sells portable shelters popularized by a doomsday prepping show on National Geographic.
And for him, just one candidate fits the energy-friendly bill.
“Donald Trump,” Kubley said. “Less regulation. (He) supports and encourages resource development and energy development.”
Trump’s “America First” energy policy advocates for energy independence. He wants more drilling and fewer environmental protections. He’s in favor of coal production, oil and gas exploration and more development on federal land. He’s for developing some renewable sources, but not at the expense of other forms of energy.
And for Kubley, that kind of rhetoric is powerful.
But for others, the path forward isn’t through deregulation and fossil fuels.
Ceal Smith is the administrator for a Facebook group called Alaska Climate & Energy, and part of a new climate caucus founded by members of the state’s Democratic Party. She moved to Alaska four years ago from Arizona.
Smith says energy tops her list when she’s considering presidential candidates.
“I would say this is absolutely the overriding concern,” she said. “I think climate is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore and energy is inextricably tied to climate issues.”
Smith originally campaigned for Bernie Sanders. But now, she said, she’ll vote for Clinton.
Hillary Clinton’s energy plan would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in the next ten years. Clinton has said she’ll extend pollution and efficiency standards and launch a $60 billion clean energy challenge. She also plans to cut tax subsidies to oil and gas companies.
Smith said Clinton isn’t perfect. She sees the Democratic nominee as too closely tied with the fossil fuel industry. But, she said, Trump’s statements that climate change is a hoax, and his willingness to deregulate the oil and gas industry, are too alarming to ignore.
“We’re looking at trying to push a lot of the Bernie Sanders platform on energy and climate with the current Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and also locally within the Democratic ballot candidates here in Alaska,” Smith said.
As for Alaska’s financial future, Smith said she thinks demand for renewable energy is going to rise quickly. And she sees that as a path forward for the state.
And while it’s not clear who will take over the Oval Office, one thing is clear: energy, economy and the environment will continue to dominate state politics.