My turn: Volume-constricted bullet line is not what Alaskans ordered

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010

The recent flurry of bills proposing different angles for building a so-called "bullet-line" signal the Legislature's mounting concern with the AGIA process and the ill-fated Canadian gas line route.

While the Legislature is correct to realize Alaska cannot wait for long-term energy solutions, it would be a grave mistake to accept failure and build a small-diameter, low-volume line that will do nothing to provide our children and grandchildren with the same level of prosperity that our generation has enjoyed.

Under Gov. Sean Parnell's AGIA plan, a "bullet-line" would be limited in size, prohibited from transporting more than 0.5 billion cubic feet per day. Since it would deliver small volumes, the fixed costs of a pipeline project would have to be spread over very few molecules of gas, resulting in Southcentral Alaska and Fairbanks committing to decades of expensive energy. Additionally, the permitting process would start from scratch and could take years with no guarantee of success, especially when attempting to traverse Denali National Park.

Finally, a low volume "bullet-line" project would do nothing to replace state revenues from the rapidly declining throughput of oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline now operating at two-thirds empty. The oil pipeline's throughput decline from more than 2,100,000 barrels per day down to 650,000 has placed Alaska in a state of fiscal uncertainty and on the edge of a financial cliff, something which a bullet-line would not help.

The answer to our economic and energy problems has been apparent since 2002 when 138,000 voters voted "yes" on the Alaska Gasline Now Initiative and passed it into law. That law (found in AS 41.4) mandates the construction of an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez with a spur line from Glennallen to Southcentral, to be owned by the people of Alaska. The law requires the gas be liquefied for shipment on liquified natural gas tankers bound for United States and world markets which would, in turn, create thousands of value added jobs in Alaska.

This is the project championed by former Gov. Wally Hickel, former Gov. Egan and former Gov. Jay Hammond. It is the project I have supported and worked on dating back to 1977. It is the project that has received final permits including an Environmental Impact Statement from FERC. It is the project Alaskans support. It is the project that is economic, permitted, ready to go and upon which our future depends.

All that Alaska is lacking is an experienced, knowledgeable leader willing to step forward and take the exit ramp on AGIA, secure the shipping contracts from world market customers, start laying pipe and announce to the world that Alaska is, indeed, open for business.

• Bill Walker is a lifelong Alaskan. He is a businessman and attorney specializing in oil and gas and municipal law and is a Republican candidate for governor.

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