ANCHORAGE - Gov. Tony Knowles told members of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission that the time is right to develop Alaska's natural gas resources and build a gas pipeline to the Lower 48.
Alaska's natural gas would go a long way toward satisfying the county's energy needs in coming decades, Knowles told a gathering Monday of representatives from oil- and gas-producing states.
"What we have been waiting on is commercial viability. I think it is here," said Knowles, the commission's current chairman.
Building a 1,800-mile gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway, into Canada and on to the Lower 48 would create thousands of jobs, he said.
"It will be a great shot in the arm of the economy," Knowles said.
America will continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels for several decades before it transitions to renewable forms of energy, Knowles said. In the meantime, North Slope resources could provide an energy bridge.
The North Slope has 35 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and experts believe a further 65 trillion cubic feet are yet to be discovered, Knowles said.
The governor noted the country is facing an energy crisis. At the same time the atmosphere in Washington has shifted with the Bush administration toward one more in line with IOGCC goals, Knowles said.
"The time is right," he said. "Let's get on with the project."
The North Slope now supplies about 15 percent of the country's daily oil needs, down from 25 percent when Prudhoe Bay was at its peak. Natural gas, a byproduct of oil extraction on the North Slope, is currently reinjected into the ground to recover more oil.
Knowles recommended a number of steps to deal with the energy crisis:
The federal government should allow more access to public lands for energy development.
Incentives need to be increased for natural gas and oil development.
More support is needed to build a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48.
The public should conserve.