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Clem Tillion: Alaska needs to start looking at end-of-oil options

  • Author: Clem Tillion
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published October 21, 2014

The price of a barrel of oil is going down, and I who use oil both at home and on the boat was hoping for a normal $20 a barrel drop, but a week in Anchorage attending the North Pacific Fisheries Council brought me into contact with bureaucrats who see the drop in the price of oil as the end of the world, and it well might be the end of easy money.

For some years now our state has been using our nonrenewable resource as if it had no end, instead of using it as a one-time windfall. Oil by its very nature is but an enclave within our state, like mining or our own mortality it has an end. I now hear some idiots talk of robbing the Permanent Fund though it is but 1/12th the money we have received from our oil.

We should have put all of our royalty and bonus money in the Permanent Fund like Norway is doing with their North Sea windfall, thus converting a nonrenewable resource into a renewable one. That, of course, requires a modicum of self-control to spend the interest not the principal, but you can have an income source that does not run out.

As a life-long Republican I make no apologies for wearing a Walker-Mallott button. The Republican party I still believe in stood for a strong military, a balanced budget, and stay the heck out of other people's business. As Teddy Roosevelt said: That government that governs best governs least. Sure we need government for those things we cannot do as individuals -- roads, sewers, schools and good police to name a few -- and we should be willing to pay for it with a fair tax system.

Alaska can have a great future. Our fishery represents 62 percent of our nation's landing of fish. We fight over who gets to fish, but our salmon runs are eight times larger then in 1959 under federal management. The Arctic Ocean is returning to what it was at the birth of Christ. I worry about ocean acidification but the open Arctic should be considered an opportunity. Little Finland is self-sufficient in agriculture, why not Alaska? Our timber resource if well managed is renewable. The only difference from a hay meadow is that we'd mow it every 40 years instead of once a year.

As one who has had the good fortune to live a long life and see grandchildren grow and great-grandchildren appear, it makes me wish I could have known my own great-grandfather Rufus, an apprentice blacksmith whose family migrated from Rhode Island to upper New York by oxcart in 1741 as the Mohawk Trail began to open the American West.

Most of us stay close to the land of our birth but a few, like many Alaskans, wandered off looking for a new home. I am not interested in leaving our kids a soft life, just an opportunity. The rip-off-and-run crowd who would spend it now and move south when easy money is gone I hope will never be in total control. I only wish I could wield the ax that chops off the hand that reaches for the Permanent Fund.

Clem Tillion is a retired commercial fisherman and a nine-term former Alaska state legislator. He lives in Halibut Cove, near Homer.

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

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