My Turn: Why is Murkowski pushing the inferior gas line route?

Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gov. Frank Murkowski has now asked that Alaska invest $4 billion to promote and build the Murkowski trans-Canadian "Let's rape Alaska and Alaskans again at any cost" natural gas pipeline. This is such a popular route that he has thus far been unable to get the oil companies to sign on to this scheme. Even with the promise of fat tax breaks from Uncle Sam's Congress, the oil companies still will not sign on.

The oil companies want a route that crosses into Canada through ANWR via the coast to Canada's MacKenzie River Valley where there is a large oil and gas development and a developed pipeline infrastructure already in place. This is the cheapest route for them. However, both their route and Murkowski's trans-Canadian pipeline route ignore that Canada is a foreign country with its own view of all of this.

The facts are that the provincial governors of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have all stated publicly: 1) that Alaska gas passing through Canada will be heavily taxed; 2) the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan will be only too happy to see that Alaska's gas is stripped of all usable fractions beyond the basic methane; and 3) the governments of these provinces have also stated that should the price of natural gas fall, Canadian gas will have market priority to the U.S.

There is also the unpleasant reality that the Canadian federal government has already stated that there will be no exceptions to Canadian labor laws for any trans-Canadian pipeline project to carry Alaska gas to the U.S. By Canadian law, Canadians will get the jobs first, then U.S. citizens.

Out of 2,100 miles of the Murkowski's pipeline route, only the first 400 miles are in Alaska.

The owners of Alaska's natural gas have spoken. The "owners" of the natural gas in question being Alaska and Alaskans. We overwhelmingly voted to establish a gas pipeline authority charged with developing an all-Alaska pipeline route. Why? The jobs and money stay here in Alaska. Spurs will come through the Matanuska-Susitna valleys to Anchorage and Kenai. Why then, is our governor not recommending that the state of Alaska invest $4 billion in an all-Alaska pipeline? The permits are already in place and have been since the early 1980s. $4 billion will build the all-Alaska gas pipeline.

The oil companies have the right to develop and market the resource, only so long as they timely act in the best interest of Alaska and Alaskans in that development, something that they have yet to do with either our gas or our oil. Alaska is still two ends of a pipeline after 27 years of operation. Where is our value-added petrochemical industry? Agrium will have to close its ammonium nitrate fertilizer plant at Nikkiski, if it cannot acquire the necessary volume of natural gas to justify keeping the plant open.

The reality of shipping our natural gas to market by tanker is that the cost of shipping has decreased radically over the last few years. It is so inexpensive to move natural gas these days that Exxon intends to invest in six new natural gas liquefaction plants along the U.S. coast, with two in California planned to receive natural gas from Indonesia. The others are planned to receive natural gas from the Middle East and the Caspian Sea coast. I believe that Alaska is much closer to California than Indonesia.

Surely, with current oil prices, the oil companies can afford to build a few LNG tankers in the U.S. to haul Alaska's gas to market?

The reality of Alaska's constitution is that our state government is required to weigh any development of our resources in favor of best use for all Alaskans. Sending our gas through Canada is bad business and a demonstration of bad faith in meeting that constitutional obligation on the part of our state government.

Why is Gov. Frank Murkowski so intent on promoting a clearly inferior choice to get our natural gas to market?

• Larry Wood is a Palmer resident.

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