Anyone who studied U.S. history remembers Seward’s Folly — America’s purchase of Alaska by then-Secretary of State William H. Seward. Today in the 49th state, the president is carrying out folly of his own.
Russia’s price tag for Alaska in 1867 was $7.2 million — or 2 cents an acre for a land area twice the size of Texas. At the time, it was seen as an inflated price, but Alaska was soon recognized as strategically important for national security and rich with natural resources — first gold, then oil and gas.
Obama’s in Alaska for three days not to celebrate the state’s massive storehouse of vital energy resources but to close them off and shut them down. He’s there for a cynical photo op in front of massive and magnificent glaciers that he claims are melting due to greenhouse gas emissions. Could his timing possibly be worse?
In the midst of a financial minipanic of recent weeks with wild stock market fluctuations, huge losses in retirement savings and an economy that continues to underperform, Obama’s message is that climate change is destroying the planet.
Only Obama would go to one of the most frigid places in the world, where temperatures can reach a minus 50 degrees, to complain about too much warming. He’s smart not to go in the winter.
But what Alaskans care most about right now, as Gov. Bill Walker has put it, is “economic climate change.”
The state has taken a devastating double hit this year. The fall in the price of oil and the bottoming out of Prudhoe Bay — not long ago one of America’s largest oil finds but now yielding only one-third of the oil from its peak production — has put a huge dent in the Alaska economy and sent tax revenues tumbling. North Dakota recently passed Alaska in oil production.
So what has Obama done for, or should we say to, ailing Alaska? This White House has already continued and even expanded the ban on drilling in the oil-rich National Wildlife Refuge, opposed building new pipelines in the state and in 2012 declared 11 million acres of prime energy lands in the Navy Petroleum Reserve off-limits to oil and gas production.
Just as harmful are the new regulations against coal and natural gas promulgated by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency. They won’t help Alaska any more than they will the continental states.
Alaska is a financially stressed state where energy is by far the dominant job-producing industry. The state isn’t running out of energy, but Obama’s drilling restrictions are drying up the state.
No wonder some residents are calling these policies Obama’s Folly, a play on Seward’s Folly, so ridiculed prematurely in Congress and the press for Secretary of State Seward’s 1867 treaty with Russia to buy Alaska.
Residents can be forgiven if they start wondering if the state might be doing better if it were ruled by Vladimir Putin.
Obama has also set off a firestorm of opposition with an announcement that he will — through executive order, of course — rename Mount McKinley to its original Indian name of Mount Denali (see editorial at left). Why? He wants to undo what the White House says is a “historical injustice.”
This is a capital insult to one of America’s most successful presidents, and it can hardly be a coincidence that William McKinley was a Republican.
It’s also an absurd bow to political correctness. The renaming of Ellis Island and Yellowstone National Park can hardly be far behind.
Walker, an independent, has accused Obama of “declaring war on Alaska’s future.”
But Alaskans shouldn’t feel unfairly singled out. Thanks to climate change fanaticism, the president has declared the same on nearly all the lower 48.