ANCHORAGE - Gov. Tony Knowles said Thursday that he and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien have agreed to try to speed development of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48.
But Knowles also expressed concern that the United States and Canada may not be on the same wavelength on key issues relating to Arctic gas pipeline development across their borders.
After meeting with Chretien on Knowles' first official trip to Canada's capital, the governor said he is aware of Canadian concerns about a new Alaska law that allows permitting only for a natural gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway, not for an offshore route toward Canadian gas deposits in the Mackenzie River Delta.
In a speech at Canada's National Press Club on Thursday and in talks with reporters afterward, Knowles acknowledged that the routing of the gasline is a touchy issue.
"Some have characterized Alaska's emergence in the market as competition to Canada. Alaska is not looking to take market share; we are looking to share in market growth. This issue is not Alaska gas vs. Mackenzie gas. It's Arctic gas vs. coal and nuclear," Knowles said.
Knowles said Canadians need to realize the frustration Alaskans feel over suggestions that a route across the Arctic coast is a politically acceptable stand-alone option.
"I have to submit to you the frustration felt in my state over the over-the-top route. It would take gas, which belongs to all Alaskans, immediately out of Alaska with no economic benefit to Alaskans or energy for Alaskan communities," he said.
That point, which Knowles stressed to Chretien in their private meeting, also was a central theme is his other dealings with Canadian federal Cabinet ministers he met with separately Thursday.