Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker just did something that is literally off the wall. He agreed to work with Democrat Ethan Berkowitz to build the All-Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline to Valdez. Berkowitz has not been able to articulate his vision for building this pipeline sufficiently to get his plan across to Alaskans. He is trailing rival incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell by nine points in a recent poll.
In making his appeal to Walker, Berkowitz has shown himself as rising above partisan party politics. He has shown something not seen since Walker's run against Parnell: guts and the desire to put Alaska first over party.
Berkowitz's presentation of his pipeline plan, a virtual copy of Bill Walker's, with some major exceptions, has been weak. With Walker's commitment to work to make the all-Alaska natural gas pipeline reality, something that his 30 years of experience will ensure, Berkowitz has eliminated the weakness in his key plank in his platform.
Alaskans want jobs, not innuendo. Alaskans want a future, not empty promises. With Walker's commitment, Berkowitz now has the bona fides to show that he has the right ideas and the vision to be our Governor.
In the mean time, Gov. Sean Parnell is repeating a very effective campaign strategy in his rope-a-doping Berkowitz with silence. The exception being a brief exchange during a recent gubernatorial forum in Fairbanks before Walker's commitment to Berkowitz, where the two traded nonsensical jibes over their respective plans for Alaska's economy.
There has yet to be any substantive challenge to the governor for his apparent violation of Art. II Sec. 5 of the Alaska Constitution with his appointments of Nancy Dahlstrom and Gene Therriault. One has to wonder why the mainstream press has all but ignored this egregious affront to our Constitution.
Prior to Walker's commitment, neither Berkowitz nor Parnell had a workable plan to enable Alaska's economy to move forward. Parnell and Palin's AGIA was DOA before it was passed. Like Exxon, et al just discovered shale gas in the last year? Berkowitz's pipeline plan dropped the round short in his desire to send gas to a U.S. domestic market in the face of the same North American shale gas boom.
Walker's pipeline plan was more than just building a pipeline. It was the most comprehensive Alaska-first project proposal of any candidate. Walker's plan gave Alaska something that it would not have with any of the other pipe dreams to Canada by Conoco/BP and TransCanada/Exxon. Walker's plan gave Alaska a future in the value added resource development of its gas liquids, as the gas liquids would remain in Alaska for our use: to build industry, manufacturing, to provide alternative energy for the Bush, and to provide long-term good paying jobs beyond the pipeline construction and maintenance of the pipeline, thereby encouraging growth in the private sector. Walker's plan also encompassed a spur line to the Palmer Enstar hub for gas distribution as far south as Homer.
Fortunately for Berkowitz, when one considers how that Primary vote broke down, more voted against Parnell than for him. If the Governor's violation of his oath and this disrespect for the Constitution of the State of Alaska becomes a challenge to which he must answer, Parnell will quickly lose the support of many Republicans who would otherwise vote for him.
If Berkowitz adopts fully Bill Walker's plan for a pipeline and focuses upon the benefits that it will provide beyond just selling the gas, Berkowitz will have the potential to overcome his Republican rival. He will pull votes from across party lines. Alaskans vote jobs first, not party.
With his bold appeal to Walker, Berkowitz may have changed the game.
Wood is general manager of Terra Resources, Ltd., and a 56-year resident of Alaska. He lives in Palmer.