Plan vs. panic

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2011

A little more than a year ago, most of us in Southcentral Alaska seemed to be teetering on mild panic about where our next cubic foot of natural gas was coming from.

In the back of our collective minds we were barely aware that production was on the ebb. Producers were unsure about whether to look for more as current supplies (naturally) dwindled, and utilities that need the gas for consumers were unsure how they were going to meet that need.

The result last winter was headlines of impending doom and consumers being asked to ratchet down thermostats. The exercise was our modern-day equivalent of civil defense drills, or so it seemed.

Fast forward to today. One thing hasn't changed in that time, present gas supplies are still dropping (naturally), and utilities still asked us this season to indulge them in an austerity drill, paring our usage for a day.

But the head-in-the-hands anxiety that seemed to prevail a year ago was absent this time around. What changed?

We think that what changed became evident as we listened to producers and regulators at The Alliance Industrial Outlook Forum last Thursday and Friday in Kenai.

Someone started coming up with a plan.

Work has progressed on a gas storage facility in Kenai. Tax incentives are now in place to encourage more production. Utilities and regulators are working together closer now than as ever before.

By no means are we out of the woods. The reality remains that current energy sources are being used up. Lots of pieces still need to come together for the producers, the buyers and the government to find and produce fresh sources.

But the sense of impending doom that seemed to hang over Southcentral gas supply issues last year is gone. In it's place, planning and organization.

And isn't that the best response to any challenge?

In short: Last year's apparent energy panic gave way to common sense and a plan of attack. That was the right response.

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