Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, January 06, 2003

Elected officials should remove rose-colored economic glasses

There is nothing like a bunch of politicos and government officials getting together to talk and waltz "Rosy Scenario." (Clarion, Jan. 2)

I still remember the big blast in Nikiski at the start of the module building project. Every politician from the governor on down was there touting what a great thing this project was and patting each other on the back for it. I correctly predicted that it was a flash in the pan. At most, people got the few months work from it I predicted. Then the tents were folded, and the module project slipped away in the night. No politician was there to wave goodbye!

Asking politicians and government officials about the status of the economy is like asking the fox how guarding the hen house is going. If they admit things are not going well, the next question is why aren't they doing something about it.

The economic future of Alaska and the peninsula, in particular, is quite bleak considering the failures of previous administrations and the pie-in-the-sky scenario as espoused by the incoming state administration.

Rising oil prices may let the incoming governor put off dealing with the state's serious long term fiscal problems until after the 2006 elections. Then the crash and burn! Can any politician see beyond the next election?

The only resource development in Alaska that has not cost the state money has been oil. Everything else the state puts more money into than it ever gets back in taxes or loan repayments. Mat Maid dairy. Barley. Seafood processing plant in Anchorage. Etc.

Prediction: If zinc prices get any worse, the Red Dog mine will close leaving Alaska with the

$250 millions port bonds to pay off.

Alaska North Slope gas to market is likely 15-20 years away. Many of the same oil companies controlling North Slope gas have interests in near tidewater gas fields in Russia and Indonesia. The Bush administration has given permission to drill up to 39,000 gas wells in the gas-rich Powder River basin of Wyoming. No expensive pipelines to build and higher profit margins! No market for Alaska gas in the Pacific basin, and no Lower 48 market until current and newly developed fields run low.

On the peninsula, Agrium is doing the "Rosy Scenario" dance, too. Prediction: Unless a dramatic new find of natural gas is made in the Cook Inlet are within three years, the Agrium plant will be gone in five years. The plant will be dismantled and moved to the Russian Far East or Indonesia.

Why? Because as gas supplies here decline the price is going to rise dramatically. The point will be reached where Agrium's Cook Inlet plant products will cost far more than the world price of the products. It will be in Agrium's stockholders' best interest to dismantle the plant and rebuild it near a cheaper gas supply.

Huge potential black cloud over the permanent fund. What happens if a group of lawyers files a class action lawsuit against the fund on behalf of minors whose parents spent their children's money? If the courts find the state of Alaska had a duty to safeguard the minors' interests, the court could award all deprived minors compensation for their loses.

Goodbye half of the permanent fund.

I could go on, but you should get the picture. The state has real problems that require forward thinking solutions starting now! (Should have been started 10 years ago.)

As long as politicians and government officials keep on their rose-colored glasses and waltz to "Rosy Scenario," they will do nothing to head off the serious problems facing Alaska.

William J. Phillips, Kenai

If Alaskans aren't careful, state will resemble other places soon

I'm curious about something -- not so long ago, you printed an article (Dec. 18, 2002) about a road that Gov. Frank Murkowski wishes to build between Skagway and Juneau.

Now, here's the part I don't understand -- how is it that the Kenai Peninsula Borough is shutting down schools and laying off teachers because there isn't enough money to educate our youth, but our governor has enough money ($232 million) to spend on a non-essential road? Of course, my suspicions are that the proposed road (and the other new roads that have been discussed) has less to do with transportation conveniences and more to do with natural resource exploitation, which justifies in some people's minds the expense, but I'm thinking that it would be significantly cheaper and imminently more responsible to use a portion of that $232 million to just move the capital from Juneau to Anchorage and spend the rest of it on the really important issues -- say, educating our next generation.

Alaska bills itself as "The Last Frontier," but if the current state government administration is not monitored closely, the budget which should be spent on improving our public education, maintaining our current road system and protecting our natural resources will instead be funneled into projects that will slowly but surely transform our wild Alaska into another domesticated California.

Is that what we really want? To be just like the other 49 states? Where the only grizzly bears are in zoos (or on state flags) and you have to pay

money to see a vestige of wilderness?

I don't know about any other resident in Alaska, but I know that I moved here to get away from commercial development, industry greed, environmental destruction and government manipulations. Alaska was home to the free and the wild -- a place to go where the roads were few, the challenges many and the survivors a special breed of independent and proud individuals that neither needed nor wanted to be pampered.

Have we lost that spirit? Have we become so weak that we feel we must pave and plunder the wilderness to be strong? That we must sacrifice our youths and our youths' heritage to gratify our own immediate selfish wants? So shortsighted that we cannot look to the good of the next seven generations?

"Theodore Roosevelt once remarked on the anomaly whereby man, as he progressed from savagery to civilization, used up more and more of the world's resources, yet in doing so tended to move to the city, and lost his sense of dependence on nature. Lacking that, he also lost his foresight, and unwittingly depleted the inheritances of his children." (Excerpt from "Theodore Rex," by Edmund Morris)

Is this the future of Alaska? Will we follow the examples set by the Lower 48, whereby we convert our wilderness to shopping malls and oil fields, lining our own pockets with our children's inheritances? If so, I want no part of it -- point me in the direction that the wolf and bear are running, for I'd rather take my chances with them than with the predators in our own state government.

Elaine Hall, Clam Gulch

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