My Turn: Well charted path to Alaska's future remains open

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011

Since the election I have been asked repeatedly about my intentions for the future. My answer is that the outcome of a single election does not alter my passion to advocate for the best interests of Alaskans.

I have congratulated Gov. Sean Parnell and I am hopeful about the opportunities he has before him to put Alaska’s economy back on track.

I remember well the 1978 election when governors Bill Egan and Wally Hickel were defeated by Gov. Jay Hammond. Neither Hickel nor Egan faded away nor became vicious critics of Hammond. Demonstrating that their shared priorities were to put Alaska first, they instead formed an organization called Commonwealth North. That dynamic organization is alive and well today advancing numerous enlightened public policies.

Hickel and Egan also united at Hammond’s urging to study how to get our natural gas to market. That resulted in the formation of Yukon Pacific Corporation which made great strides in advancing the All-Alaska project including obtaining numerous state and federal permits and export license for a gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez for LNG.

Over the decades others, including myself, picked up the torch ignited by these statesmen. Reversing a long-held belief that Alaska’s gas should go through Canada, last spring at a Commonwealth North meeting Sen. Ted Stevens joined the ranks of Alaska’s legendary leaders who recognized a pipeline to tidewater for LNG was the economic future for Alaska. Stevens voiced alarm that Alaska continued to pursue a gas line into Canada to serve a market saturated in shale gas while hungry, lucrative Asian markets were being ignored. He urged emergency powers be granted and immediate steps taken to pursue the All-Alaska project.

My work continues on the project long identified by these knowledgeable leaders as the key to Alaska’s future. Not only would a large-diameter pipeline to Valdez, with a spur line to the existing gas grid in Southcentral Alaska, provide revenues to help offset declining oil production, it would deliver direly needed cheap energy to Alaskan homes and businesses. It would also help increase the flow of oil in the TAPS oil line

But revenue into state coffers and cheap energy are not enough for a prosperous economy. It is the gas liquids that will transition Alaska’s economy with value added manufacturing jobs. I have never understood those who would support those valuable liquids, and the thousands of associated jobs, to be shipped into Canada. Alberta already has a thriving petrochemical industry. Alaska should develop our own.

The U.S. Department of Energy has repeatedly confirmed a gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada will not happen. It concluded on several occasions that with the huge North American shale gas resources, (which they estimate to be in excess of 100 years of supply) there is no sign of natural gas coming from Alaska to the contiguous United States as far out as 2035.

The persistent efforts to advance a gas pipeline through Canada – to a collapsed gas market at the expense of Alaska’s future – was the catalyst that prompted my decision to run for governor. While Alaska sits high centered on the Canadian route, LNG projects around the world are being developed to capitalize on the premium Asian markets. These markets represent Alaska’s last and best opportunity. Once they are fully subscribed, the door will shut on Alaska’s ability to build the big line that would ignite our economy and make it cost effective to deliver gas to Alaskans.

By following these developing projects around the world and working with some of the multi-national companies that own them, I have learned why foreign LNG goes to market while our gas remains stranded. Other host governments do not spend decades negotiating with their leaseholders making concession after concession in hopes that their gas will go to market.

They own the infrastructure required to get their resources to market.

Unfortunately, we continue to expect the three major North Slope producers to do that for us. They will not. It is not their job to put our people to work, heat our homes and build a thriving Alaskan economy. That is our job as Alaskans.

I, for one, will never stop fighting to make that happen.

• Walker ran for governor in the 2010 Republican primary. He is the owner of an Anchorage law firm that specializes in oil and gas and municipal law.



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