Perhaps I am cynical.
When the TransCanada company was the only bidder for the gas pipeline, I figured BP, ConocoPhillips or Exxon would try something to derail the effort and financing. It would not need to be overt. They could simply interpose a string of issues in regard to gas supplies and thereby frustrate financing, among other options.
I view with suspicion the latest announcement that BP and ConocoPhillips are willing to commit $600 million to begin a pipeline. It smells like a thinly veiled attempt to knock out a potential competitor so that they can continue to dictate terms.
Is that $600 million going to be in an escrow or in a binding agreement with the state (complete with agreements as to the state's share and formula for revenues), or is it simply a paper commitment? If they successfully knock out TransCanada, are we then again at the mercy and in the pockets of Big Oil, as has been the case with the current national administration? What kind of terms will they impose if they are again the only players in town?
These are not nice people with the best interests of Alaska in mind. They are in it for the money and play hardball. They are recording record profits as consumers have seen gas and heating oil prices triple over the last few years.
I applaud Gov. Sara Palin's hardball approach in dealing with Big Oil. It has owned Alaska too long. I think some further hardball might help to smoke them out and force them to into a real commitment to either build the pipeline or to sell gas to the company that does.
One possibility: After a fixed period for allowing a gas pipeline to be built, provide for a gas reserves tax at a level that will yield revenues for the state comparable to those that would occur with a fully operational pipeline. The hike in reserves can sunset if the gas pipeline is built and operational by that time.
If Big Oil does not like it, they can give up their leases, which can then be awarded to other competitors.
The TransCanada company has been playing by the rules. I don't want to see it derailed by a gimmick. If big oil is serious, they had better be very serious.
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