My Turn: Pipeline poppycock

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2003

The Voice of the Times editorialized on April 14 that Gov. Murkowski was right to slash the funding of the gas line authority from $1.3 million to $150,000 and said he shouldn't give the project anything. The Voice of the Times is wrong again, but that's what you'd expect from an outfit totally beholden to the North Slope producers.

The Times claims that North Slope gas delivered to Valdez has no viable markets. Poppycock. In truth, the biggest markets for natural gas are on the Pacific Rim. At Valdez, Alaska's gas can be liquefied and shipped to California, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Mexico or Washington.

The Times argues the Pacific Rim has access to cheaper gas than Alaska can offer. But Mr. Kim Jong-Sool of Korean Gas in a recent meeting with Alaskan business and political leaders said our LNG price was far cheaper than the proposed price of the other seven worldwide LNG projects. He also stated Alaska has closer and more secure gas. Just like the LNG shipments to Japan from Nikiski since 1969.

Therefore, despite the Times' assertion, Alaska's gas will out-compete other potential suppliers. This is one reason why the North Slope producers are fighting so hard to keep it out of Valdez. BP, Conoco-Phillips and Exxon have gas reserves in other parts of the world, which they must market quickly, or the host governments will cancel their leases.

The Times complains about the cost of the Valdez project. Their solution? A federally subsidized gas line that costs twice as much ($20 billion plus) through Canada to the Midwest. Never mind that the Midwest has access to much cheaper and much closer gas from existing Canadian and U.S. fields.

Why is the Times whining up the wrong tree? One of their white lies hints at the real problem, the one where they claim the energy companies are "the principal owners" of the gas. Absolutely not true. Alaskans - you and I - own that gas. The companies have leased the right and obligation to develop and market the gas. After 30 years of numerous studies leading to delays and excuses, our gas sits stranded on the North Slope never once being offered to the markets.

So why does the Support Industry Alliance, VECO, and Voice of the Times oppose the State Gasline Authority and LNG Export project? First, they dance to the oil companies' tune. They could care less about the public interest. With a gasline authority the lion's share of the profits will go into the state treasury benefiting Alaskan citizens, as it should.

Larry Houle of the Alliance claims there's no advantage to state ownership of the gas line. That's pure hooey! State ownership means we get the majority profits. Secondly, state ownership means no federal corporate income tax. Third, there is potential for a new petrochemical industry with many new jobs.

A bad deal? Maybe for the North Slope producers and their buddies. What really matters is that state ownership is a great deal for Alaska, and the only deal Alaskans should accept.

Tyrone Neel of Eagle River was a cosponsor Ballot Measure 3, which was approved in last November's general election.

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