Lawmakers vow China has no 'hope of getting gas from us'

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

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WASHINGTON - Alaska's proposed natural gas pipeline will not be used for exporting gas outside of North America, the state's congressional delegation vowed this week.

Alaska's senators and congressman said they would do everything in their power to keep the contract from going to Sinopec ZPEB, a joint petroleum exploration and construction venture backed by the Chinese government.

Sen. Ted Stevens, who sits on the China-U.S. Interparliamentary Conference, said he would pass on the message to his counterparts in Beijing.

"I will tell the Chinese they have no possible hope of getting gas from us," Stevens said. "I don't see it happening. With the shortage of natural gas in the United States, that gas is not going to be allowed to be exported."

The Sinopec joint venture is one of five companies that filed applications last month to build the pipeline under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. The company that lands the contract gains the support of the state, as well as up to $500 million in matching construction money.

Stevens, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, came out swinging against the Chinese proposal, calling it a hard sell to Washington at a time when energy security is one of the hottest topics in the nation's capital.

"I think it would be very problematic if the governor should conclude that this particular application is the application that goes forward," Murkowski said. "It's problematic to us at this level. I think it would be very difficult to convince my colleagues that Alaska natural gas should be shipped overseas, at the point in time where our domestic needs Alaska's gas."

Young echoed Murkowski:

"While it is the Governor's decision, it is an Alaskan pipeline, and I trust it will not become a Chinese pipeline," he said. "We should not be exporting our gas. The need is too great here. It's produced domestically, and it should be used domestically."

Stevens said that there's precedent for banning exports of Alaska's natural resources. The original federal legislation for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline had a 15-year prohibition that required all petroleum to be sent to U.S. refineries.

"I would fully expect to have the same provision apply to the natural gas pipeline," Stevens said, adding that natural gas produced in the Cook Inlet would be exempted. "I think we can look forward to an absolute prohibition of export of gas from the North Slope."

Even so, it's unlikely that the Chinese-backed firm would be chosen, said Leland Miller, a corporate attorney in New York who follows Chinese energy issues.

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