The state of Alaska and three northwest Canadian provinces are in the early stages of forming a trade association dealing with energy, Gov. Frank Murkowski said Wednesday.
Murkowski spoke to the Far North Oil and Gas Forum in Calgary, Alberta, earlier this week and met with the premiers of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory to discuss energy issues and the proposed Alaska gas pipeline.
The pipeline is an item in the energy bill in Congress, and will be approved or discarded before the House and Senate break, which historically occurs before Thanksgiving, said Mike Menge, the governor's energy adviser.
The administration is optimistic that the pipeline will be approved to run from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks, paralleling the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, then veering off to follow the Alaska Highway through Alberta and ending in Chicago.
Menge said the massive blackout in the eastern United States and Canada last month focused public attention on energy needs, perhaps helping the push for the pipeline.
This week in Canada, Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi withdrew his opposition to the Alaska Highway route. Kakfwi had argued against the route because he feared it would interfere with another pipeline in development: the Mackenzie Delta line to Alberta.
Murkowski has invited the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon Territory to Alaska later this year to discuss energy issues and the formation of a northwestern energy trade association.
"This is the first stage, to see what we have in common. We have a great common interest because we share borders. We're negotiating right now the prospects for the gas line," Murkowski said.
Menge said the collaboration makes sense because the provinces and Alaska share similar construction issues and a similar lack of infrastructure.
"We have common northern neighbors with common problems. We do not have the patent on ideas for working in the north, and we've not worked that closely with the Canadians in the past," Menge said.
Murkowski also announced Wednesday that he is going on a trip to Asia on Friday to accept an award from the president of Taiwan and to discuss resource trade with Asian businesses interested in importing Alaska products, including coal, gas, forest products and seafood. Murkowski said he will receive the "Order of Propitius Clouds with Grand Cordon," in recognition of his relationship with Taiwan during his U.S. Senate career.
Masha Herbst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.