Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Robert Linder/Unsplash

By Clay Koplin 

In the harsh terrain of the Last Frontier, we Alaskans have carved out a reputation for our resilience. But it’s not just nature’s forces that conspire against our rugged landscape—it’s a new global reality. China’s expanding influence has long posed a threat to America’s economic stability and national security. Now, it casts a long shadow over Alaska’s future, as well.  

In August, when Chinese warships forayed into our waters for the second time in two years, we were reminded again of our proximity to the Woken Giant. Having taken their first transgression seriously, we had the resources to defend our national sovereignty.  

Unfortunately, our response to China’s incursions into the American economy doesn’t reflect the same level of vigilance. 

In the interest of safeguarding the American people and securing our collective future, we need a strategic trade policy that cement American—and Alaskan—businesses over our geopolitical foes.  
Senator Sullivan leads on this front. From championing the American Energy, Jobs, and Climate Plan to protecting our Strategic Petroleum Reserve from being used to bolster China, he’s championing every tool in our arsenal to be levied against the CCP’s malign influence. When he introduced the Indo-Pacific Strategic Energy Initiative Act, for example, Sullivan advocated for domestic energy production, not only to limit Russian and Chinese influence over our supply chains and our allies, but also to reduce global emissions. His actions show that “we can deal with China from positions of strength.”  

Our current trade policy benefits China at the expense of American manufacturers and workers. China inundates our markets with inexpensive goods that cut corners on environmental and labor standards. American manufacturers are 300% more carbon-efficient than Chinese competitors, but derive no market benefits or advantage for that performance. 


This is especially pronounced here in Alaska, where America’s superior performance standards are reflected in our core industries. Compared to its Chinese counterparts, Alaskan energy production is 300% more carbon-efficient, the wood and timber industry is nearly 200% more carbon efficient, and the mining of critical metals like copper is 220% more carbon-efficient. Holding foreign competitors accountable to a balanced pollution standard would boost U.S. production and create a more level playing field for our businesses and workers.   

 Several Republican and Democrat senators are exploring a “foreign pollution fee” to help address this economic threat. This seems to align with Sullivan’s leadership in holding China accountable and protecting the Alaskan economy and environment protected from polluting neighbors.  

Sullivan’s colleagues introduced the “Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency” (PROVE IT) Act. Republican Sens. Cramer, Cassidy, and Murkowski introduced this bill to mandate that the Department of Energy study the emissions intensity of goods produced in the United States and abroad. This legislation is an important step to support domestic manufacturing and production by holding foreign competitors to our own high standards.  

When PRC missile cruisers waded into the Bering Sea last summer, Sullivan was quick to say that the US wouldn’t hesitate to protect and defend its national interests in Alaska. We should uphold the same spirit of defense and protection for threats to our economic and environmental stability, too. 

Clay Koplin is the CEO of Cordova Electric Cooperative. He formerly served as the mayor of Cordova.