U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s campaign has been churning out the press releases in the past few days, most of them attacking Sen. Mark Begich for being both soft on energy and for taking money from the national Democratic Party, which is taking money from former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is fighting for stricter gun control.
Both charges are a stretch, but the last one is particularly elastic. Begich was one of a handful of Democratic senators who broke with the party to vote against gun control, incurring the wrath of gun control groups everywhere, including one funded by Bloomberg.
On energy, Treadwell accused Begich of failing to lend his enthusiastic support for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s fight to end the 1970-era oil export ban.
Murkowski is leading the charge to do away with ban, with the support of the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The ban was issued in 1975, following the Arab oil embargo, and was meant to protect American consumers from an unstable market and widely vacillating gasoline prices.
It does not apply to all oil produced in Alaska. However, demand has been high enough that no Alaska oil has been exported since 2004, according to the Energy Information Administration.
As more domestic oil is produced, it’s likely to be one of the biggest energy issues in the coming years.
Although Begich considers a higher priority making sure that Alaska can sell its natural gas to Asia, he does support lifting the ban.
“Alaskans know Mark Begich’s strong record of supporting Alaska’s energy industry and his work to create quality energy jobs for middle class families including his support of exporting Alaska crude oil and natural gas,” a Begich campaign press spokesperson said.
But some top Democrats say that because oil companies will try to sell oil more expensively to other countries, lifting the ban will translate into higher prices for consumers at the pump. Refiners, such as Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refiner by capacity, also opposes lifting the ban, according to Bloomberg News.
“Yesterday, Mark Begich had the opportunity to enthusiastically support Alaskan energy by supporting Lisa Murkowski’s bid to end the oil export ban but he failed to do so. Mark Begich and the Obama Administration cannot claim to support free trade in energy on one hand without reversing policies to produce Alaska energy on the other,” Treadwell said.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is willing to consider lifting the ban.
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