My turn: Moving Alaska's gas

Next governor needs realistic pipeline plan

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2010

Ralph Samuels says the last couple of years of trying to get a gasline to Valdez or Alberta has been a waste of time and money. He supports a smaller bullet gasline to Fairbanks, Southcentral and the Kenai. Industry has not seen that route as warranting expenditures to engineer it. Buyers have expressed no interest in buying. His bullet line is in direct opposition to TransCanada-Exxon and Denali's Conoco Phillips and BP, with applications to the Federal Energy Commission, FERC.

Bill Walker wants the State to fund a big pipe to Valdez. Valdez is great for tidewater exportation of gas. The open season underway with TransCanada-Exxon will tell us if there are export buyers. I was pleased when the TransCanada/Exxon application to FERC included the Valdez leg. As former President of the Valdez Chamber, I have long been an advocate of exporting LNG from Valdez. Bill ought to doing back flips to see the inclusion in the AGIA sponsored plan. It could help make Valdez gas export dreams a reality.

Bob Poe wants the state to finance $10 billion for a large diameter line to Fairbanks. The population of Fairbanks could not use that much gas and he has identified no buyers beyond. Poe makes me see red when proposing using Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to subsidize that line. Eddie Burke and I formed a little group a few years ago called Alaskans Just Say No to stop all those witty fellows in the Murkowski Administration who wanted to spend Permanent Fund earnings. The Permanent Fund should not prop up an undocumented pipeline proposal with no buyers and nowhere to sell the gas. Alaskans, just say no, again.

Hollis French had well-reasoned comments on shale gas. Think of this. If you punch a whole in the ground and natural gas whips up the well into the gas line, that's our Alaska gas. If you blast oil shale with high pressure, chemically treated water then suck up the gas from the wreckage, process it to remove impurities, and find a safe place to either treat or store the toxic water, that's shale gas. Which process is cheaper? Not hard to figure. How many blasts will it take before environmental lawsuits stop further land and aquifer degradation? French predicts all sorts of lawsuits on water and air quality. Maybe we could send a few of our plentiful polar bears to establish a new protected habitat at the shale sites too. Just trying to help.

Does Ethan Berkowitz even support a gasline? When asked about the gasline, he launches into a proposal about replacing our current tax system (that brings us billions) with something else that has only royalties. That is a swell new idea that could lead to decades more arguments but no gas exports.

Through this debate, Governor Parnell patiently champions the AGIA process, which is responsible for two applications for preliminarily engineered pipelines currently before FERC. FERC is the final decider on route and ownership for any gasline. FERC officials indicate that they expect a merger of the TransCanada/Exxon and the Conoco Phillips/BP proposals since only one pipeline will be built.

With so much debate on the gasline, I listened intently to the words of Tom Barrett, the White House's Deputy Pipeline Coordinator in Fairbanks this week. President Obama just ordered the pipeline office to be a direct report to the White House. That shows his priority to get this gasline built.

The Fairbanks Daily Newsminer related Barrett's comments: "with the project matching so well with Washington's priorities - it would tap domestic energy sources, produce low levels of carbon emissions and create thousands of jobs - and with Congress talking of doubling federal loan guarantees for the project, the timing looks good, he said."

Alaskans need to decide which of the candidates for Governor have realistic plans to move our gas to market and bring Alaska long-term financial stability. After 30 years of talk, serious proposals for moving Alaska gas should be at FERC's table for approval. We do not need any more rabbit trails.

• Jim Crawford is a broker for Alaska Real Estate LLC in Anchorage.

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