A recent report issued by the Alaska Oil and Gas Industry indicates that the state of Alaska likely earned more than $10 billion this fiscal year from oil and gas operations. The state made $5.1 billion from oil revenue in FY 2007.
And while climbing gas prices continue to pump revenue into state coffers, Alaskans aren't getting any richer.
Still, try telling that to our neighbors to the south. A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of those surveyed support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, up from 42 percent in February of this year. And while those feeling the gas crunch in the lower 48 states are only paying an average of $4.11 per gallon, many seem to feel justified in pointing accusatory fingers at untapped ANWR resources.
Can we really blame them?
With so much at stake, political leaders really have no choice but to consider all viable options as potential solutions to what is clearly an energy crisis. And of the many proposed solutions, none sparks a more bitter and unproductive debate than tapping into the nation's vast oil reserves in areas that are currently considered "off limits."
Certainly there are many good reasons to begin drilling in ANWR. However, an economically frustrated faction of folks from the Lower 48 isn't one of them. If nothing else, Exxon has already proved that our land, water and natural resources are expendable. And if "Big Oil" gets its way, there will be nothing to stand in their way when it comes to tapping the Arctic and offshore reserves.
A look at oil revenues gushing into the state is sure to have some to the south thinking back to 19th-century gold rush days. Hopefully none are naive enough to think they can grab an oil drum, pack up the mule and head up the Alcan to scoop Alaska's black gold out of standing pools among the caribou. But, then there were those of us naive enough to believe the U.S. Supreme Court would make a fair and just decision in regard to Exxon.
Obviously nothing is beyond the realm of rational thought.
And, in less than three months, state officials will announce what is expected to be a particularly portly Permanent Fund Dividend this year. That's sure to really grate on a few people's nerves on the Outside. After all, what could Alaskans possibly be complaining about when all this oil revenue money is pouring in, hand over fist?
Shall we start with the price of fresh fruit?
Sure, there are plenty of things Alaskans give up by making a choice to live in the last frontier. No one expects a big blowout sale on Florida grapefruit or a cheap bag of white rice. Around Homer, folks are pumping gas to the tune of $4.87 per gallon, and a pound of grapes will set you back more than $4.
In the meantime, electric rates are on the increase, fuel oil is skyrocketing and words like depression, recession and stagflation are being tossed around like pennies.
Just last month, employers cut more than 62,000 jobs and reported six straight months of losses. Meanwhile, ethics-challenged executives rake in $400 million in retirement packages and corpulent radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh negotiate their own $400-million contracts.
Despite the outrageous oil revenues headed our way, most Alaskans are far from rich. And even if we were, our new wealth wouldn't go far amid the rising cost of everything else.
If we make a clear and informed decision to open ANWR for drilling to supply future generations, let's do it because it's the right thing to do.
Not because we're bullied into it.
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