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On the right track

A headline in the New York Times on Wednesday highlighted what some might consider a contradiction.

The headline — “An Alaska senator wants to fight climate change and drill for oil, too” — topped the story about Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s view on the evolving climate and her position in favor of opening oil production within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Written by the New York Times’ Lisa Freidman, the story is a fairly nuanced look at some of the politics, economics and other aspects surrounding the issues of climate change and fossil-fuel production.

At the core of discussion is whether one can both acknowledge climate change and advocate for expanded oil production in Alaska.

Some people view those positions as incompatible. Murkowski does not.

 “I think for anybody who has spent any time in Alaska, there is an awareness that we all have that we are seeing the impacts of climate change perhaps more readily than in other parts of the country because of our Arctic environment,” Murkowski said in an interview quoted in the New York Times. “But we’re also a place where we recognize that in order to stay warm, we have to have a resource that can keep us warm, and oil has been a mainstay for us. We’ve provided it to the country and that has allowed for jobs and revenues, it has allowed for schools and roads and institutions that everybody else around the country enjoys.”

Oil is expected to remain a significant component of the world’s energy supply in the forseeable future. Developing alternative energy sources takes resources, some of which can come through oil-production revenue.

“It’s not something that can be done overnight, and it is something that can only be done if you have resources,” Murkowski said in the story. “For the people who live and work and raise their families in a very small population state, we don’t think we are the problem. We think we are the answer.”

The senator is on the right track.

Seeing climate change effects in Alaska, Murkowski advocates for neither a sharp end to fossil fuel production nor a full “drill, baby, drill.”

There’s a recognition that some increase of oil production in Alaska now can bring immediate benefits to Alaskans and the broader United States while potentially helping to quicken the transfer to other forms of energy.

Meanwhile, this track could avoid the destabilizing economic and social turmoil of a fast, forced switch from fossil fuels on one hand, and the potential environmental risks of irresponsible, come-what-may development on the other.

What might appear as a contradiction could well be the middle route that makes the most sense — and ultimately proves the most successful.