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Issue Position: Energy

Issue Position

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The Energy You Need, At A Price You Can Afford

You don't want to worry about your heating and electric bills always going up. You don't want to flinch every time you have to fill up your gas tank. You want the electricity to work when you flip the switch and the heat to come on when you need it.

I'll work to make sure you always have the energy you need, at a price you can afford.

My priorities are to:

* Get a gas line from the North Slope, with affordable gas for Alaskans
* Expand renewable energy
* Promote investments that save energy
* Protect against energy price-gouging
* Prevent natural gas shortages in Southcentral
* End the rural energy crisis

Alaska's Gas Pipeline

My top energy priority is getting a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope -- whether it's the big pipeline going to the Lower 48, a medium size one to an LNG port in Valdez or a smaller one coming straight to Southcentral. Whichever it is, it will have to deliver affordable gas to Alaskans -- or the project isn't going to happen, period. We need a natural gas pipeline that benefits all Alaskans, not a handful of multinational corporations.

Some communities won't be able to get gas from whatever pipeline is built. I support efforts to lower the cost of energy for all Alaskans, and not just those who are next to a pipeline. This is why Alaska's fiscal terms for the line are so important. If we charge a fair price for our resource, we can use those proceeds to invest in renewable projects statewide that benefit all Alaskans.

As a State Senator, I made sure the North Slope gas pipeline will have delivery points inside Alaska. I supported state cost-sharing on the current pipeline planning work, which will hold down the final cost of gas to Alaska customers. I also worked to make sure the North Slope gas line will be open to new shippers, not just a few big companies. More competition and more volume will mean lower prices for your gas.

The most promising gas project right now is the one to the Lower 48 through Canada. Transcanada and Exxon have already begun soliciting customers (a process known as "open season.") BP and Conoco will soon do likewise. Transcanada and Exxon are also seeking customers for a pipeline that goes to Valdez, in case that option is commercially viable.

A bullet line, straight from the North Slope to Southcentral, is another option that has produced some interest. However, no private party is spending money to pursue it right now.

I'm proud to have supported the state's competitive gas line bidding process, known as the Alaska Gas Line Inducement Act. It provided incentives that have moved the project farther along than ever before -- we are at the point where two competing ventures are seeking customers.

Whatever the pipeline route, I am skeptical of using state money to build the line without having firm customers signed up. The private sector must be on board before construction starts, but I won't give multinational companies 20 or 30 years worth of tax breaks to make it happen.

I won't sign away Alaska's sovereign powers over this pipeline or any other project. We fought too long and too hard to become a state and get the right determine our own destiny. We will not surrender our rightful powers as a state to any corporation for any purpose.

Expand Alaska's renewable energy

Hydro, wind and solar power are good insurance against inflation, because they have no fuel costs. As Alaska collects billions of dollars from oil, we have begun investing some of that one-time money to get more energy from renewable sources. It's a smart investment.

Right now we get about 25% of our electricity from renewable sources, mostly from hydroelectric dams, and more is in the works.

A private company is pursuing wind power on Anchorage's Fire Island. In Fairbanks, Golden Valley Electric is moving ahead with the Eva Creek wind project. Kodiak has a wind power plant that supplements its electric power dam. Many villages have wind turbines to offset expensive diesel power. On the Railbelt, projects like Lake Chakachamna or Mount Spurr geothermal could produce major amounts of renewable power.

But only projects that have private sector support should qualify for any state investment. I will fight any boondoggles for big corporations or fly-by-night outfits.

Invest in saving energy

If we use less energy, we pay for less energy. Saving a thousand barrels of oil a year for 20 years is like finding an oil well that produces 20,000 barrels of oil.

Installing more efficient lighting and heating in public buildings is an investment that can often pay for itself. Some private companies offer to pay for the improvements and make the money back by taking a share of the energy savings.

Alaska has some of the best programs in the country to help homeowners install energy-saving insulation, heaters, and windows, and I'll continue supporting them. These kinds of investments are a source of clean energy and pay dividends for years to come.

Protect against energy price-gouging

Alaska is a big oil-producing state, but our fuel prices are among the highest in the country. Something doesn't seem right. That is why I cosponsored price-gouging legislation that gives Alaska new tools to protect against unfair prices at the gas pump.

I will press Alaska refineries to justify why their margins are so high compared to the Lower 48. I will tell the state consumer protection office to aggressively investigate any unreasonable energy price increases, as a continued effort to increase corporate accountability.

Prevent winter gas shortages in Southcentral

In the coldest days of winter, Southcentral almost runs out of natural gas, because local wells can't produce enough to meet the intense demand. Our electric utilities may not get the gas they need to keep our lights on, and commercial buildings could get their heating fuel cut off.

Southcentral needs a way to store natural gas for those peak demand days, but building storage for just a few days a year is very expensive. This session, I helped pass a state tax incentive that will hold down the cost of installing the needed gas storage.

End the rural energy crisis

Our smallest communities pay the state's highest energy prices. I will help rural communities save money wherever possible on their energy bills. My administration will help them coordinate bulk fuel purchases well in advance, so they can get competitive bids and avoid costly emergency fuel shipments.

I will continue state programs that help homes, public buildings and power plants become more energy efficient. The Power Cost Equalization fix last year helps keep electricity affordable in rural communities, and I'll make sure the program has stable, long-term funding that keeps up with the need when fuel prices spike upward. Where a practical local source of energy is available -- wind, run-of-the-river hydro, tidal power, wood, fish waste, other biomass -- I'll help communities find a way to harness it.


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