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The Permanent Fund shouldn't be used to boost in-state energy

Posted: Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Alaska Permanent Fund is supposed to be a place for the state to invest its money prudently - not a development fund for questionable projects. That's why a proposal to allow the fund board to invest up to $1 billion in in-state energy projects is a bad idea.

The proposal, House Bill 44, is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Chenault and Reps. Peggy Wilson and John Harris.

It would allow the Permanent Fund board to invest up to $1 billion of the fund in in-state energy projects.

Chenault is trying to promote an in-state gas pipeline with HB 44.

But backers of the $4 billion in-state gas pipeline proposed by Enstar Natural Gas say they don't even need any state funding. Private investors will carry the load, Enstar says.

And the Permanent Fund is about saving for the future, not building pipelines or coal plants. The state has plenty of development agencies to turn to instead - the Alaska Industrial Development Authority, the Alaska Railroad, the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., for example.

Energy development is important to Alaska. But we're already investing big, including $500 million to support a trans-Canada natural gas pipeline, and $250 million for renewable energy projects.

And Alaska has a history of throwing state money down black holes in the name of development - such as the nearly $200 million investment in the Healy "clean coal" plant that's been mothballed for years.

The idea of spending Permanent Fund money for in-state development comes up again and again.

So one more time: The fund is not intended to pay for development. It's there as a savings account for future generations.



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