The state of Alaska, representing all of our people as the owners of the resources at the North Slope, should build and own the Alaska natural gas pipeline. That's the best way to keep control and get the "maximum benefit" from a resource that is worth untold billions.
We need to get Alaska gas to Alaskans. And it needs to be affordable. To lower the price we need a pipeline big enough to serve larger markets. The best and most immediate option is an all-Alaska gas line to Valdez where the gas can be liquefied and shipped to the world.
Our neighbor nations on the Pacific Rim are ready to pay twice as much as Alberta or Chicago. Last week Japan paid over $20 per thousand cubic feet. Canada paid $11.69.
Why ship our resources to Asia? Wake up, America! It's a world economy. Check the labels on your T-shirts and the names on your TVs and automobiles. Chances are they weren't made in America. Our national economy depends on our productivity and our ability to compete and trade with the world. We won't survive by just playing the stock market. There is no wealth without production.
For years, the North Slope producers claimed that Alaska natural gas was not economic. But Gov. Palin's AGIA approach produced five eager applicants, and the producers changed their tune. They cobbled together yet another public relations campaign about a gas line project that will never be built. We've seen this before.
Unfortunately, the AGIA process shut off bidders who wanted to build the all-Alaska line, and only TransCanada was left. The administration now recommends that we give an exclusive license to TransCanada. I am opposed for the following reasons.
First, TransCanada faces obstacles and delays beyond our control and theirs, and we need to move immediately to get Alaska's gas to Alaskans, especially our rural residents.
TransCanada admits that the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, mired in problems, will go ahead of an Alaska gas line. Many of Canada's First Nations have unresolved land claims and the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled, rightly so, that Native tribes must be "consulted and accommodated" on major projects that will impact traditional territory. Delay and more delay.
What's more, TransCanada plans to export millions of barrels of our valuable North Slope gas liquids to Alberta. These gas liquids should stay in Alaska. Billions of dollars of state revenue and hundreds of value-added jobs for Alaskans for decades rest on this one issue.
Because of a rush going on for new gas plays in the Lower 48, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a flat price for gas in Alberta for 30 years to come.
And I believe that Alaska's gas, instead of serving America as Gov. Palin sincerely hopes it will, will stay in Alberta and be used to heat the tar sands to produce synthetic oil, a process that many Canadians fear will become a world class environmental disaster.
So Alaska is caught between the producers on one side and severe delays on the other.
Fortunately there is another option. Let's build the Alaska gas line ourselves. We have surplus revenues, and we can start immediately.
Ever since the people of Alaska voted six years ago in favor of an all-Alaska gas line, they have been waiting. And now, with a crisis in Alaska fuel and energy costs, they are frustrated, even desperate.
With the "build and own" approach, neither the U.S. regulatory commission (FERC) nor the Canadian government will be in control. That means we can get gas to Alaskans in five to six years, and the entire project can be completed soon thereafter.
Speak up Alaskans! Let's take this -- the faster, better and more beneficial alternative. With LNG, we will move our gas to the highest and most lucrative markets, and we will keep the value-added jobs here at home.
That's "maximum benefit" for our people, and a mission for this generation.
Walter J. Hickel served as governor of Alaska from 1966-1968 and from 1990-1994 and as U.S. secretary of the interior from 1969-1970. For a copy of his full testimony to the legislative hearings on TransCanada June 18, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.