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Friday, October 21, 2016

By Roberta Rampton

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) — President Barack Obama arrived in Alaska on Monday for a three-day tour aimed at spotlighting how its melting permafrost and eroding coastlines show the United States is already being hurt by climate change.

With 16 months left in office, Obama is trying to build support for tough new rules on carbon emissions from power plants ahead of a hoped-for international climate deal later this year that could cement his legacy on the issue.

The White House has said Obama will announce new policies to help communities adapt to climate change and deploy renewable energy. But the main purpose of his trip is to use the media attention — amplified by an aggressive social media campaign — to convince Americans of the need to reduce fossil fuel use and increase renewable energy production.

“It’s a really important punctuation mark on what he’s saying is a top priority for him,” said Sharon Burke, a former Pentagon official who worked on energy issues for Obama and is now a senior adviser at the New America think tank.

The hype for the tour began on Sunday with an announcement that Obama would rename North America’s tallest mountain as Denali, restoring the traditional Alaska native name to what maps and tourists currently call Mount McKinley.

Obama posted a photo of Denali on Instagram shortly before landing in Anchorage for a meeting with a group of native leaders. He was later set to address an international conference on the Arctic.

He spent part of the seven-hour flight talking with Alaska Governor Bill Walker, who told reporters he thanked Obama for his administration’s recent decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea.

Environmental groups have howled about that move and hope Obama will announce new reforms or restrictions for resource extraction while he is on the trip.

During the past year, Obama took steps to seal off parts of the oil-rich state from new drilling. But Walker told reporters that the state depends on oil and gas for 90 percent of its revenues, and the downturn in the price of oil has meant drastic budget cuts.

On Tuesday, Obama plans to head out of Anchorage to hike the receding Exit Glacier in Seward. He will fly on Wednesday to the salmon fishing center of Dillingham and then north of the Arctic Circle to the small town of Kotzebue.

“People are just beside themselves. They’re probably not going to believe it until he’s actually here,” said John Baker, a Kotzebue resident famous for being the first Alaskan Inupiaq to win the Iditarod sled dog race in 2011.

(Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)

Photo: Author and founding member of the Fairbanks Native Association Poldine Carlo (L) greets U.S. President Barack Obama after he arrived aboard Air Force One at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

  • 1standlastword

    Obama promotes the biggest ever foreign trade program and American jobs, Alaskan oil exploration and the campaign against global warming…how does this all come together?

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      Ever hear the word “balance?” Alaska, like many oil states is totally unprepared for the end of oil drilling. The reality is they have few other industrial options. Or more to the point, they don’t want any other industrial options. They want to be viewed as the ONLY energy in the US.

      But, we all know that this is no longer true. Solar and wind turbine energy in the east is taking off like wildfire. The Oil Industry loved to use the hoax that solar doesn’t work on cloudy, foggy or winter days. For over a decade now, they have been proven wrong. Germany has far less sunlight than the entire US and is using 65% solar energy.

      The reality is that, at present, the US has over 1.6 million miles of underground pipelines. Many are in dangerously aged condition and will require replacing. But, with the glut of solar energy taking over, many of these pipelines will no longer be necessary. The cost to remove underground pipelines would break the US Treasury’s back in a month. So, many of these underground pipelines will remain and begin to lose integrity and leak into soil and create underground plumes of pollution that we will all have to pay to clean up if we don’t want water to become as rare as it was in the Mad Max films.

      • johninPCFL

        The Yellowstone and Santa Barbara pipeline leaks are the begining. As I’ve opined many times, if the largest energy company in the world can’t (or won’t) maintain its pipelines, from which 85% of its revenues derive, how sane is it to allow a pipeline to be run them through an aquifer to supply the worst, most corrosive oil to the gulf coast to deliver oil to China?

      • 1standlastword

        I don’t care for the “balance” excuse to keep the greedy oil tycoons in the black.

        Turns out Obama is obliging himself to honor GW commitments made to Chevron before he left office. I don’t care if the moneybags at Chevron invested capital on the Bushwhacker’s promise…give them their filthy lucre back and a day in court.

        Can’t believe Obama would roll Bush dice: When Chevron greed results in a giant industrial disaster it will be Obama’s legacy tarred and much worse and more costly a pristine environment will be destroyed!!!!

        Alaska should be a greater opportunity for wind and solar

        • Eleanore Whitaker

          The reality is that oil is on its way out. For more than 4 decades, Big Oil spent billions received from our donations at the pump to lobby against any new alternatives to their industry. Since the late 1960s, solar has been consistently thwarted by big oil states like Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska. They don’t mind us paying for their massive spills like the 22 year old Taylor spill few heard about in the Gulf. Add the older Exxon Valdez spill cleanup we are still paying for to the BP oil spill that may take 100 years before that region regains its clean water and soil…and then pack on the cost of these spill “fines,” and you see why half of the northeast is fed up paying Big Oil to dump their polluter slime on us.

          The idea now is for North Dakota to sell its Bakken oil to Canada and export it through British Columbia. I have friends in western Canada. The people in BC refused to allow Keystone to be piped through their province. So the Bakken crude will be piped across several northeastern states to a port, mostly likely in Maine.

          These oil boys just don’t give up. They just think our money grows on trees like their money spouts from oil rigs.

  • Dominick Vila

    I support all efforts designed to prepare the USA for the effects of climate change, and all the efforts to help aggravate that calamity, regardless of whether or not it is caused strictly by man made excesses, or it is a natural phenomena. The fact that our polar caps are melting, that glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, that sea levels are rising, that temperature is rising, that weather patterns are changing, and that horrible droughts are destroying what was one fertile land and reducing the availability of potable water, is no longer conjecture. Every scientist, and most casual observers can see it. The question is what should we do at this late stage? Unfortunately, what could have been a long project with its cost, and the impact of transitioning to other methods, spread over a long period of time, is likely to become a last minute, poorly planned, and expensive endeavor. Large levies will have to be built to protect areas that are barely above sea level, large projects to ensure potable water is provided to major urban areas are going to have to be undertaken, irrigation is going to have to be managed better, ways to manage lower agricultural yields are going to have to be devised, different habitats will have to be designed, waste management will have to be addressed, and the transition from fossil to alternative energies ranging from nuclear to solar, wind, and hydro-electric will have to be accelerated. Parts of the USA that have never been exposed to hurricanes and other calamities will have to prepare for them. Above all, we will have to get ready for major changes in lifestyle, and greater dependence on foreign resources…which augur more crusades.

  • 13factfinder

    We must change the name of the Washington Redskins to the more appropriate “Capitol Caucasians” just to keep peace with the “PC” crowd until TRUMP unravels their agenda!

  • paulyz

    The vast majority of Americans care about ILLEGAL Tresspassing & loss of jobs due to that, AND unfair trade practices.