It’s not lack of demand for low-cost energy that has prevented Fairbanks from shifting to natural gas.
It’s a combination of supply, distribution, economics and politics.
A plan is now in the works to create a local natural gas utility board that could be a means for ending the logjam and deal with all four of those challenges.
The community is seeking state funding to help ease the economic challenge to a gas delivery system.
But we do not have the local governmental structure in place that would even provide a means of getting support from the governor and Legislature for a grant.
Golden Valley Electric Association can’t do it. Fairbanks Natural Gas can’t do it. The city can’t do it. The borough can’t do it.
During the last legislative session, efforts to secure about $100 million to $150 million from the state fell apart because Fairbanks was not speaking with one voice.
We can’t afford to repeat that mistake in the next legislative session.
This proposed municipal utility could play a decisive role. It could be the unifying force we need to get all local interested parties together and figure out the best way forward.
The draft ordinance says the purpose “is to facilitate if possible, or provide, if necessary, affordable natural and/or manufactured gas to the largest number of people in the Fairbanks North Star Borough in the shortest amount of time.”
That is a purpose that almost everyone can agree with.
A public/private partnership holds promise in a situation where private enterprise alone has not met community needs.
This proposal is a step in the right direction that could provide an opportunity for Fairbanks to unify behind a process to get an expanded natural gas distribution system in place.
We cannot afford to wait.