Real jobs, real handouts

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

Related Letter:

Examples of hysteria

Dave Fremming says his argument is simple: Laws protecting the public's air, land and water destroy business opportunities and we need "real" jobs based on resource extraction not government largesse. The elegance of his argument is seductive. Too bad it doesn't reflect reality.

It's not that the "real" jobs in oil and timber and mining Fremming is referring to are bad jobs, but oftentimes the existence of such work is due largely to the government subsidies Fremming so despises. Take timber for example. The Tongass timber program hemorrhages money. Last year it was $36 million in the red. Right now, markets for Alaska wood are so bad that the Forest Service is actually building the roads to the timber in the hope of attracting a bidder. Talk about a government handout.

Look at the proposed gas pipeline form the North Slope as another example. Industry says it needs upwards of $20 billion and a guaranteed minimum price for the gas in order for this project to happen. The enormous price tag for the gas pipeline has raised the ire of Lower 48 gas producers and has fueled opposition from even the Bush administration. As a conservationist, I'm on the fence on this project, but let's come clean, this is the mother of all taxpayer-subsidized, government-sponsored job programs.

And then there's oil itself, the driver of our economy. Alaska was given Prudhoe Bay at statehood, an enormous transfer of wealth courtesy of the federal government.

I'm probably never going to agree with Mr. Fremming on how many clearcuts we need, how many mines should be dug, or how much land should be set aside for its fish and wildlife and beauty. I do hope, though, he will step back for moment and realize the hand of big government is everywhere in Alaska and in many cases, it's that hand that holds up the "real" jobs he loves so much.

Tim Bristol


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