The following editorial first appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:
If somebody's got a better idea, let's hear it now. Since Gov. Sarah Palin announced an amended energy relief plan last month, one that includes a $1,200 check for nearly everyone living in Alaska, there's been a lot of complaining about entitlements and government handouts.
It may be a valid concern, but we have a major concern of our own: While the state is flush with cash from record high oil prices, no one else in Juneau has come up with a plan to make those dollars work for the people of Alaska.
We are paying some of the highest prices in the country for gasoline, with no relief in sight. We are facing rising costs to heat our homes, keep the lights on and keep our families clothed and fed.
Without a comprehensive state-wide energy plan in place, we have been left to make decisions about our energy consumption on a household by household basis. Until there's a long-term energy plan in place, we're better off deciding for ourselves how best to use the money generated from our public resources. After the capital spending budget they approved this year, members of the Legislature would have trouble arguing that point.
Certainly, some of us would spend our payout on a trip to Hawaii or a big-screen TV. But for the vast majority of Alaska households, that money would be spent just catching up.
Many of us will use it to purchase energy-saving items - compact fluorescent light bulbs, new weatherstripping, a more efficient furnace, maybe even solar panels a more fuel-efficient vehicle.
Will we be better off a year from now, when the one-time payment has been spent and energy costs are still soaring?
If we've made smart choices with that money, many of us will be. We'll have been able to stabilize our household budget, and we'll have found ways to use less energy. Those $1,200 checks will have helped us accomplish those things.
It's by no means a perfect solution, but if Palin's proposed energy relief program allows each of us to make some changes in the way we live, then it's certainly the best idea we've heard so far.