In an Anchorage Daily News article Sept. 14, a former and knowledgeable gas utility regulator and consultant remarked that the natural gas industry “has a fiduciary responsibility to see how gullible the locals are.” The “locals” are us, Alaskans surely have been taken to the cleaners since SB 21 was enacted to cheat Alaska out of its “fair share” of its nonrenewable resource wealth. That share is guaranteed by both the Alaska Statehood Act and Alaska’s constitution.
Alaskans ought to take a pass on more gas, as the future is electric. Fifty years of “cheap” and exported — for a while — and now the Cook Inlet gas reserves are dwindling. Maybe the tax-free corporate owner will explore and find more gas, but more likely, it will extort the state for further useless subsidies and tax breaks — both amount to a further robbery of our “fair share” — and then it will likely stick local customers with higher prices anyway.Once there was an effort to convert some of the Southcentral vehicle fleet to compressed natural gas, or CNG, 35 years ago, as a prelude to transition to hydrogen used as a fuel. The Municipality of Anchorage bought CNG vehicles and has a fueling station; a private one was built at a service station on Tudor Road, but late one night a big truck bashed the “pump” so it was all closed down. No one to blame as it was a hit and run.
One of Anchorage’s mayors stalled negotiations with the CIRI Wind Farm on the price for Fire Island supplying Municipal Light and Power electricity so instead of 44 generators, there were only 11. That project ought to be finished with newer, bigger turbines. Adding big, newly designed strong wind generators on the south side of Turnagain Arm out on the mud flats would locate them in one of the most powerful wind “tunnels” on the planet — clean electricity right on Anchorage’s doorstep. Each installed turbine would reduce our consumption of that dwindling gas reserve. From the Seward Highway, they would appear tiny against the mountains.
Why do some say gas is stranded on the North Slope? Because those who want another “pipeline boom” will not notice, understand or acknowledge that those gas fields are located on tidewater, shallow out to 40 miles or so and ice-blocked much of the year. A gas liquefaction plant built on a barge, small but working round the clock and coupled to sufficient storage, could supply large LNG tankers occasionally when the ice was out, to Cook Inlet or for the world market. A 40-mile pipeline is a lot cheaper than an 800-plus mile one that has to cross Cook Inlet.
This LNG plant could also supply Fairbanks via tanker truck and to the Yukon River near the pipeline bridge to fuel vessels plying the Yukon River. State or Native corporation-built and -operated riverboats, tugboat-towed barges could supply Yukon River villages by carrying and tanker truck trailers and one tractor to supply those towns — park a full trailer in town and replace with another when nearly empty, using that remaining gas to fuel the tugboat. This gas delivered by such trucks to Fairbanks would reduce local pollution from oil and wood smoke, while gas replacing diesel, wood and gasoline in rural villages should be cleaner and cheap. Conversion to solar, wind, river current or geothermal should be subsided by the state, leaving this barge-borne LNG project to the private sector.
Additional barge-borne LNG plants could be added as needed or, if a total bust, the one LNG barge and the truck tankers could be sold on the world market.
— Thomas R. Wilson
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