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How Alaska may profit from Japan's nuclear divestment

Alaska Dispatch
Aaron Jansen illustration

How will a post nuclear-energy Japan power itself? The question was explored by various news outlets this week as Japanese energy officials continue to fan out across the globe in search of natural resources to fuel one of the world’s largest economies.

In the wake of post-tsunami disaster at the Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power plants, a sobering national dialogue and public welfare concerns have led to the idling of most nuclear plants – and prompted utilities to look overseas for new sources of energy. Recently a contingent of Japanese officials came to Anchorage to discuss purchasing Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) for consumption in power-hungry Tokyo, one of the world’s largest cities, as well as other major industrial regions of the island nation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Japan imported 15.8 million tons of LNG in January and February – or 12.6 billion cubic feet per day – up 25 percent from the year before. And the Japanese pay well, with LNG pegged to the price of expensive oil instead of cheap natural gas.

It’s noteworthy news for Alaska oil and gas wonks. Gov. Sean Parnell just announced progress in convincing the state’s major resource producers to “align” behind a plan to build a natural gas pipeline to a Southcentral Alaska tidewater port, where it could be processed, liquefied and shipped to Asia.

With Tokyo Gas and other Japanese utilities pledging to spend billions to lockup overseas natural gas resources, according to the federal coordinator for an Alaska gasline, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear more about Japanese investment in the 49th state.