Empire Editorial: Should Alaskans put PFDs into a pipeline?

Unsure of how to spend your next PFD? If an Anchorage senator has her way Alaskans will be given the opportunity to invest in a North Slope natural gas pipeline. That is, if one is ever built.

 

Senate Bill 164, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lesil McGuire, would enable just that. Every eligible Permanent Fund Dividend recipient would be able to buy stock in the pipeline; earning interest thereafter in proportion to the amount they invested.

On the surface, the SB164 sounds like a good deal for Alaskans. The bill would let residents decide how much and how often they would want to invest, following a similar model to Pick.Click.Give. According to the bill, the more an individual invests, the larger the return heading back into their pockets. Sounds simple enough, but where’s the catch?

The bill would only take effect once a natural gas pipeline is built. According to recent estimates, we’re still more than a decade away from seeing that happen. In the meantime, lawmakers are working out the details, including how economically feasible (and profitable) a liquified natural gasline would be.

With AGIA scrapped and the state heading in a new direction, the prospect of having an LNG line ready to go in 2026 is a best case scenario. But we all know how easily a project of such scale can be set back by a few months (or more likely, years).

Even still, the idea of Alaskans taking a role as part owners of a natural gas pipeline is an exciting thought, and one the Legislature should investigate further.

Would residents be buying a stake of the state’s ownership portion of the pipeline, or would they be purchasing stock in a publicly-traded company that invests in pipelines? What kind of return could be expected, and how soon? Also, are there any loopholes that need to be closed up, and could residents ask for a return of their money if they choose to opt out after a certain period of time?

The answers to these questions aren’t available yet, but as noted earlier the concept is still one worth considering as lawmakers and heads of state continue working toward making a natural gas pipeline a reality.

• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include: Publisher Rustan Burton, rustan.burton@juneauempire.com; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, abby.lowell@juneauempire.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, charles.westmoreland@juneauempire.com; and Assistant Editor James Brooks, james.brooks@morris.com.

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