Ever wonder what the world will look like when you're 95? It's hard, but I got a little help with it last week when Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the producers on the North Slope have enough proven reserves to keep the Trans-Alaska Pipeline pumping until 2065.
I know, it's confusing. You probably heard Sen. Lisa Murkowski trying to stampede the Alaska Legislature into passing the governor's $2 billion Oil Bailout because if we don't Alyeska will have to shut down the pipeline for good. Gov. Sean Parnell has likewise been warning of impending doom.
How could a judge figure out that the oil companies, a coalition of resource development councils, the governor and certain lawmakers have been blowing hot air at the rest of us? Black robes aren't magic, and she's not in the oil business. Surely, the oil men can see the future better than some judge.
Truth is, Judge Gleason was agreeing with the oil companies' own research; it's just that the oil producers hadn't elected to make some of the important parts public until they got to court.
In a 2005 study for BP, the lower limit of oil that can flow through the pipe was set at 135,000 barrels a day. In 2010, BP's expert concluded, "TAPS could effectively operate down to throughputs between 100,000 bpd and approximately 70,000 bpd."
BP testified that the company would have to shut down the pipeline if the throughput dropped to 300,000 barrels a day. Well, that sounded ominous but smelled a bit like low tide when compared with what the company reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
BP told the SEC it could operate the pipeline with a flow of 135,000 barrels a day. But wait, you ask, why would they say that? I thought we were going to have to deploy Matanuska Maids to Valdez next week to coax the last drops out of the sacred pipe.
It's simple. Follow the money. Company stock considerations drove their SEC testimony. By saying it could operate the pipeline at the lower flow rate, BP's "bookable" reserves increased, and its stock value rose.
The shell game that played out in court took the judge more than 200 pages to describe. That same shell game, on steroids, will be played out in Juneau over the next few months. Unfortunately, judicial wisdom and the ability to sift and separate fact from fiction won't exactly rule the day in the Capitol.
The Make Alaska Competitive Coalition is ramping up. This week, a caller to my radio program took it upon himself to call a few of the businesses the coalition says support the governor on his Big Oil Bailout. Many of those business owners were stumped as to why they were listed. I called one of my favorite fish outfitting shops, which was on the coalition list, and asked the owner why he supported the $2 billion giveaway. "HB110? Never heard of it. What are you talking about, lady?"
Under our constitution, only the Legislature or the governor can call a special session. On Wednesday, the oil company CEOs hopped on their corporate jets and summoned a special closed-door session of all 60 lawmakers. Wow. Business attire was required, and no delegates were allowed. The people's business was discussed, sans Gavel to Gavel, cameras and press.
It's hard enough to herd the cats in the Legislature with all the facts on the table. Imagine how much harder it is when some of the facts are being withheld, and some of the ones that aren't ought not be believed.
Unfortunately, Judge Gleason won't be in Juneau to call balls and strikes.
This summer will mark the sixth anniversary of the FBI raid of legislative offices. Lawmakers went to jail for selling their votes on oil tax legislation.
2012 also marks the 20th anniversary of Alaska v. Amerada Hess, the court case that found the oil companies guilty of "deliberate falsification in computing the price paid to Alaska for its royalty oil."
Is our collective memory failing? Remember when we weren't getting our fair share and oil prices were low? Important construction projects were shelved, the Permanent Fund was being primed for plucking and there was talk of a state income tax.
The debate over the Big Oil Bailout matters. It affects you and every other man, woman and child living here. Alaska's oil is not a renewable resource. It belongs to future Alaskans as much as to us. We owe it to generations to come to be good stewards of this treasure and get a fair price for it.
So, God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be the old woman shaking my cane at the sky while the oil keeps flowing through the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM/95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. on KYUR Channel 13.