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Doogan: Death of Parnell's oil tax cut, ain't seen nothin' like it

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Editor's Note: Mike Doogan is an Alaska State House Representative, author and former newspaper columnist. The following commentary appeared in his legislative e-newsletter on April 27.

Well, That Was Interesting

We watched the death of Sean Parnell’s latest attempt to hand $2 billion a year to his pals at British Petroleum, ConocoPhillips and Exxon this week. Or maybe it was just badly wounded. Various lawyers have said different things about what happened – yeah, I know. But what can you do? They’re lawyers—but the smart bet is that Parnell killed his own bill. After calling us into special session just 10 days ago to get us to pass it.

All I can say is, gloriosky. I’ve been to two goat ropings and a county fair and I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Actually, I’ve been watching the Alaska Legislature since I worked as a page in the earthquake special session in 1964 and this is as weird as I’ve ever seen. It’s like watching Godzilla devour Tokyo, get a Shinto temple caught is his throat and hornk the whole thing up again.

(A recap for those who got to the show late. Parnell offered a bill to give $2 billion a year to Big Oil on the off-chance they would put more oil in the pipeline. The House passed it. The Senate didn’t. Session ended. A new session started. The Senate wrote its own bill. Much palaver ensued. No bill passed. The session ended. Parnell called a special session and spat out another really bad bill. At the first hearing on the bill, senators beat Bryan Butcher, Parnell’s commissioner of revenue, like a rented mule. Even the House was getting a little owly about the whole thing. Parnell pulled the plug).

What happens now? Got me. There’s one bill left, to create a super agency to try to finance and build a small-diameter pipeline from the North Slope to Nikiski. Don’t know what will happen with that, but its chances seem to be slim and none.

Which leaves us with the small problem of trying to balance a bigger and bigger budget with less and less oil. (The new one will cost $105 a barrel to balance.)

What to do? What to do?

So, how about this, Big Oil? We’ll keep paying crazy money for you to go looking for oil and getting it into the pipe. If you succeed, and turn that pesky old decline curve around, come on back and we’ll talk about tax breaks on the new oil. Call me a crazy capitalist, but I like to know what I’m getting for my money. Short of that, we’ll just wait for those other provinces to finish their race to the bottom. When they’re done, we’ll still be here – with what should be the most valuable oil in the world. If you’ve got a better idea, I’m willing to listen, but please stop coming back here with the same old bad idea in different wrapping paper.

So, unless something even stranger happens, this may be the last Mike Doogan e-news you’ll receive. It’s been an honor and a joy to serve you.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.