WASHINGTON - A 3,500-mile pipeline to deliver natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to the fuel-hungry Midwest is suddenly more than a pipe dream.
Congress has promised to cover 80 percent of the cost if the project goes bust - and Alaska is thinking about owning part of it.
But despite a tripling in natural gas prices in the last few years, the companies that own the gas remain skittish about rushing into a $20 billion investment. And how much government help should be given has become an issue in the state's highly contested Senate race.
To ease investors' concerns, Gov. Frank Murkowski is proposing to make the state part owner of the pipeline. His administration is expected to announce a state proposal this week, prompting charges by Democrats that Murkowski was rushing the issue to help his daughter's Senate campaign.
Murkowski denied politics was involved in the planned announcement.
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