Big oil and the financial future of Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am smart enough to know who butter's my bread in Alaska. This state's education, transportation, tourism and countless other services would be just a shadow of current conditions without the money big oil pumps into Alaska. And yes, I love my permanent fund check as much as the next guy. Nevertheless, I am an Alaskan first.

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Being a commercial fisherman, I remember the Exxon Valdez spill. Almost 20 years later Exxon/Mobil still would rather appeal than pay fishermen who lost their lifestyle on Bligh Reef. Last winter Uncle Ted removed the ban on drilling in Bristol Bay. If the unthinkable were to repeat itself in the world's most productive sockeye fishery, I guess fishermen will only get compensated after every legal option has been exhausted.

I can not help but wonder, if BP had spent more money on pipeline maintenance and less on a PR blitz for Alaska's new oil tax structure would our land would be better off? And VECO has only succeeded in proving that democracy can sometimes be bought for surprisingly small sums of money.

I see on the news that oil is over $90 a barrel. The production peak through the Alaska pipeline went for well under $25. Beyond the baby boomers, my grandchildren will likely pay a price that will shock and awe. Having oil in the 21st (and maybe 22nd) century is a gift and responsibility that I want future generations to share and profit from.

Alaska could get much more from our oil production. We should have more refineries in Alaska, or a world class plastic production industry or be making fiberglass resin for boats and windmills with our oil. That would be investment in our state, and our children, and the future of the world. An investment few oil companies want to make under any tax structure.

Our state does have a financial day of reckoning. I am not scared because we have lots of options, even if we do not like them. We just have to remember not to trade our principles for pork.

Bert Bergman


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