Sullivan Discusses the “Green New Deal”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke today on the Senate floor regarding the “Green New Deal,” a version of which was introduced as a resolution in the House and Senate last month, and the impact that resource development has had on the health and well-being of Alaskans. Senator Sullivan’s full remarks are included below.


Mr. President. First, I want to thank all of my colleagues for coming down here and having this important discussion. And I want to thank my Democratic colleagues, who I have a lot of respect for, for being here and having this debate. I’m sure it’s not going to be the first time that we’re going to be doing this on the Green New Deal or other elements of proposals coming from the House or in the Senate.   

This is a big issue, what’s happening in the House and what’s going to happen over here with some of our colleagues. I think in many ways this is an issue that focuses on the future of where the country is going.

As the Majority Leader recently said in an interview: “I can pretty safely say this is the first time in my political career that I thought the essence of America was being debated.” Socialism, democratic capitalism – okay, let’s have that debate. We’re having that debate.

What is the essence of America, Mr. President? I believe it’s freedom and liberty. That’s what we were founded on, and that’s what I think proposals like the Green New Deal would undermine.

To be clear: some people are joking about it—about banning hamburgers or airplanes, or returning to the horse and buggy—but I think there are many people who are looking at this very seriously, and so we should. Some of these ideas can be funny until they’re not funny. 

So what we’re trying to do here today is to talk about this proposal in a serious manner and, in my state—the great state of Alaska—in a deadly serious manner.

There’s so much that is in this idea, the Green New Deal—a government takeover of health care, free housing, free food. The list goes on and on. The costs, as many have pointed out, are very high.

But today, Mr. President, what I want to do is talk about one aspect that would be particularly detrimental to my state and many other states—my colleagues from West Virginia, North Dakota, they’re here on the floor—and that’s this proposal to ban hydrocarbons produced in America within a decade. 

This is not a joke. There are many members in this body, some of whom are on the floor right now, and in the House, who think this is a serious proposal and would like to do it. So I want to talk about that.  

Mr. President, I want to stipulate that I’m certainly someone who’s in favor of “all of the above” energy. The fact that America is now producing more oil, more gas, more renewables than any other country in the world is good for all of us – Democrat, Republican.

My colleague from Rhode Island is here. He and I have worked on a whole host of issues together involving oceans. 

I think that technological advances with regard to gas—hundreds of years of supplies of natural gas, with technology, with renewables—provide huge opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to work together and to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. Enormous. We’re just scratching the surface. 

I look forward to working with him and the senator from Massachusetts on these kinds of ideas, because I think they’re exciting and when you’re burning natural gas at very high temperatures, you have very little greenhouse gas emissions. Combine that with technology, renewables. We have hundreds of years of these supplies. It’s a great opportunity, exciting, and I want to work with them. 

But let me get back to the proposal in the Green New Deal on natural resources. 

In my opinion, we do not spend enough time on this floor talking about the positive, societal benefits of natural resource development in America: oil, gas, renewables, fisheries.    

These industries don’t just fuel our power generation and transportation, and electricity for our homes—these industries literally lift people out of poverty. They lengthen life expectancy. They literally save lives. 

Mr. President, there is a strong correlation between poverty and lack of economic opportunity and the health of our citizens.

I’m going to show a few charts here. This correlation is particularly strong in my state with our Alaska Native population.

In 1954, the Interior Department, with the help of the University of Pittsburgh, conducted a study of the health of Alaska Natives.

Here’s the quote: 

“The indigenous peoples of Native Alaska are the victims of sickness, crippling conditions and premature death to a degree exceeded in very few parts of the world.”

Some of the poorest people on the planet were my constituents—in Alaska, in America—in 1954.

More than ten years later, in 1969, just 50 years ago, the situation was still dire.

Here’s what Emil Notti, the President of the Alaska Federation of Natives told Congress in 1969:

“The native people in rural Alaska live in the most miserable homes in the United States... The average life expectancy of the native is 34 years versus 69 years for the rest of the United States.”

So what happened after that, Mr. President?           

We had a big change—we’re not there yet—but a big change, and I want to explain it.

Here is a chart from a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine that was published in 2018 about the life expectancy of Americans.

Where you see blue and purple is where Americans’ life expectancy increased the most. 

The state with the greatest change in the entire country was my state. That’s a pretty important statistic, by the way, life expectancy. It doesn’t get any more important than that—are you living longer?

Look what happened in Alaska. The North Slope of Alaska, the Aleutian Island Chain, Southeast, all experience huge increases in life expectancy from these very low levels, some of the lowest in the world.

Mr. President, why did that happen? 

Here’s why that happened: On the North Slope of Alaska, this Congress passed the Trans Alaska Pipeline Act to develop Prudhoe Bay, to develop oil and gas, some of the biggest fields in the world. We also had a very large zinc mine at the same time that came into production. We also had, because of this body’s Magnuson-Stevens Act, a huge increase in our fisheries.

Bottom line: natural resource development happened in Alaska and America, and people’s lives increased. That is a remarkable thing. We don’t talk about it enough.  

The average life expectancy increase in Alaska was between eight and thirteen years. That is a measure of success, and it came because we were developing our resources—oil and gas.

That’s why I am taking this Green New Deal deadly seriously. Because, what we’ve done in our state and in our country by producing resources is create the ability of people to actually live longer. 

I challenge my colleagues to come up with a better, more important statistic than that.

Mr. President, I’m going to end with a quote from a gentleman who came down here and testified in front of the Senate, Matthew Rexford, a proud Alaska Native leader from Kaktovik, Alaska, which is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

He came down here to testify that Congress should give his small community the opportunity to develop the resources near his village. And we did that in 2017 after a 40-year debate.

He spoke firsthand about his knowledge about what resource development did for America, for Alaska, and for his community.

“The oil and gas industry supports our communities by providing jobs, business opportunities and infrastructure investments. It has built our schools, hospitals, and has moved our people away from third-world living conditions – we refuse to go backward in time.” 

That’s what he said, Mr. President. 

I believe the Green New Deal, certainly its ban on hydrocarbon production, would take us back in time.

For the sake of Matthew and all of the Alaskans who’ve done so well by responsibly developing our resources, we’re not going to allow that to happen.


# # #