Those in the Republican race for governor are a picture of contrasts, with some surprising similarities. The incumbent, Sean Parnell, is a former legislator and an attorney. Ralph Samuels is a former legislator and a businessman in the tourism industry. Bill Walker is a former mayor of Valdez and an attorney and businessman. Samuels grew up in the Dillingham area, Walker Fairbanks, Big Delta and Valdez. Parnell is a Fairbanks homeboy. In spite of differing backgrounds and geography, they all share the common attributes of being born and raised in the greatest state in the Union.
The two attorneys, Walker and Parnell, share a focus on the oil business. Parnell was a lobbyist for Conoco before he became Sarah Palin's lieutenant governor. Walker's practice is focused on government and the Valdez gas line project with the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. Walker is the legal counsel and project director for AGPA.
Ralph Samuels has worked in the flying business in Alaska with Penn Air from an early age. He is now an executive with Holland America. He has worked in the private sector in the people moving business and tourism most of his life.
Two of the three were legislators. Parnell was a senator before leaving office to become a lobbyist for the oil companies. Samuels was a legislator for six years and House Majority Leader during the Palin Administration. Parnell's reputation as a legislator was as a hardworking behind-the-scenes type -- a nice guy, but not a leader. Samuels' claim to fame as a legislator was to vote against AGIA. Both have otherwise supported accelerated growth in state government and supported grossly increased state spending.
The main economic issue driving this election is a natural gas pipeline project to get Alaska's North Slope natural gas to market.
Parnell inherited Sarah Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA. AGIA is actually two pipeline routes wrapped up under one act. AGIA includes both a route to Canada and the route down the TAPS corridor to Valdez. Should the Canadian route be successful in the current open season, TransCanada and Exxon have the option of shutting out any use of the TAPS corridor for a future pipeline to Valdez.
Bill Walker is pushing the all-Alaska natural gas pipeline to Valdez with a 250 million cubic foot per day spur from Glennallen to Palmer. Unlike his competitors' projects, the gas line to Valdez has the permits and environmental impact statements in place to allow an almost immediate start of construction should Walker be elected governor. Unlike his competitors, Walker intends for the gas liquids to be used in-state to create industry and jobs.
Ralph Samuels is pushing the bullet line, a 500 million cubic foot per day gas pipeline down the Parks to Anchorage. This line must be heavily subsidized to be economical for the consumer in south central. In his earlier interview in the Frontiersman, Samuels stated, "The gas supply on the North Slope is big enough to keep a bullet line operating without harming the prospects of a larger, out-of-state gas line." Samuels was referring to Conoco/BP's Denali project.
Samuels and Parnell support both the bullet line and a large pipe project.
Tony Palmer of TransCanada has publically stated that TransCanada believes it will be at least 10 years before TransCanada would consider building a pipeline to Canada under AGIA.
The bullet line is at least 10 years into the future before start of construction, because permitting, impact statements and rights of way processes have yet to be started.
Only the big pipe projects, AGIA, Denali and the all-Alaska natural gas pipeline to Valdez would generate revenue for the state.
Both AGIA and Denali will cost Alaska jobs, money, infrastructure and industry. Alaska would lose the gas liquids to Canada.
Alaska will keep the jobs, infrastructure and industry from the gas line and the in-state use of the gas liquids if the all-Alaska natural gas pipeline to Valdez is built.
Parnell and Samuels obviously advocate a continuation of a resource extraction economy. Walker advocates a value-added resource development economy, which represents a paradigm shift with his plan to use our gas liquids in-state.
Larry Wood has been living in Alaska for 55 years, and works in the business of environmental reclamation.
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