The popular conservative website The Daily Caller ran with the sensational headline Thursday entitled "Pipe Down," followed with a photo of the Trans-Alaska pipeline snaking its way right toward the reader. The story led with the following paraphrase of U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, the feisty Republican who chairs the House Resource Committee:
"The Obama administration is setting the stage for the dismantling of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and poses the greatest threat to its existence today," so the lede goes.
The pipeline is indeed in danger of running dry. Once it carried more than two million barrels a day. Now its throughput is at about 600,000 barrels a day, and declining about 5 percent a year. If nothing is done to put more oil in the line, that amount is expected to be around 350,000 in 10 years.
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the consortium that runs the pipeline, doesn't yet know at what point the pipeline itself will have to shut. But with such low levels of oil running through it, water, ice and wax builds could result in extended shut-downs of the pipeline.
Needless to say, President Obama does not have the power -- neither legally nor politically -- to dismantle much at all these days, to say nothing of an 800-mile tube of steel running through some of Alaska's most inhospitable lands.
But Obama does have some say over oil and gas development on federal lands, and federal waters, oil that would eventually run down the TAPS.
And in this matter, the article says, the president has been more on the side of "'far-left environmentalists' than in preserving a pipeline that carries approximately 10 percent of the nation's daily oil output..."
Surprised? Some are, especially the coalition of environmentalists who have been fighting offshore oil and gas development in Arctic Alaska.
"Anyone who claims that the Obama administration is on the same page as environmental groups is reality-impaired," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that's been on the forefront of fighting Arctic oil and gas developments.
"The Obama administration," Cummings continued, "is largely indistinguishable from the Bush administration," on policies related to offshore and onshore federal lands in Alaska.
Indeed, the administration just days ago signaled its support of oil and gas development spread over millions of acres in the Chukchi Sea...