Alaska editorial: Villages should be heated without Venezuelan help

Posted: Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Alaska can afford heating fuel for its villages. The State of Alaska didn't need to depend on Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to pick up the village home heating tab this winter. Chavez donated 1 million gallons of fuel to poor households throughout the United States. Some 150 Native villages, including Metlakatla, accepted the donation. Others declined it.

It wasn't like Chavez made the donations out of the kindness of his heart and concern for villagers struggling with $4-a-gallon fuel. The Venezuelan president did it out of his disgust for the United States, and specifically to embarrass President George W. Bush.

Chavez made the donation through the Venezuelan oil company Citgo, which has its headquarters in Houston. The donation amounted to 100 gallons per household, a donation worth $5.2 million.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in her annual address to the state Legislature last month, received a round of applause when she stated that Alaska with its great wealth doesn't need such ill-inspired charity. The state, after all, has more than $37 billion in the Alaska Permanent Fund, she pointed out.

The Legislature should do more than applaud Murkowski's comments. It, in cooperation with the Palin administration, needs to make sure the villages aren't put in a position in which they have to choose between cold-hearted donations and freezing cold temperatures within their homes. Alaska should ensure that its homes are heated adequately.

The Legislature is in session. It is the time for lawmakers and the administration to craft a plan to assist villagers. Those who refused Chavez' donation shouldn't be left out in the cold. They stood up for what was right; the price shouldn't be that they freeze until spring and summer present warmer temperatures.

A plan should be devised so that they, as well as those who accepted the donation, aren't tempted to look beyond Alaska for assistance again.

Alaska has the wherewithal to heats its homes. Not to make sure that happens amounts to gross negligence on the part of the state's leadership.

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