Another plea to get on with something

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, isn't shy about trying to get the attention of Alaskans when it comes to the state's energy challenges.

He knows full well that all anyone has to do to get this state's ears to perk up is mention the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Last Monday Chenault and Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, introduced a bill that would ask voters if they would support subsidizing construction of a natural gas pipeline with earnings from the Permanent Fund.

Don't use the term "raid," Chenault says. Dividend payouts and inflation-proofing the fund always get taken care of first.

Chenault and Ramras are just suggesting another use for the remaining earnings. If their bill passes, the advisory question could come to voters as soon as the August primary.

Chenault tried another tactic last year, introducing a bill that proposed selling bonds to build an in-state gas pipeline. That bill remains sitting in the Senate Resources committee, going nowhere so far.

Chenault admits he's trying a different tactic this year to stir folks up.

"Sure, in a way it's to stimulate discussion," he said later last week from his Juneau office. "Right now, I think we're just spinning our wheels.

"Alaskans need to be involved more in the debate."

The Speaker has a point. Right now there are a bushel of energy ideas being bandied about, especially in the Railbelt area -- large-scale hydroelectric, geothermal, wind. Homer Electric Association is proposing to add a steam turbine to its natural gas-fired plant in Nikiski.

Any of those methods could be great ideas for the future. But a number of Alaskans are to the point where they want to see some action right now. Maybe the politicians and policy makers need to hear from the public in a united, definitive voice.

We're not suggesting a "raid" on the permanent fund either.

But we are applauding Chenault's tenacity in pushing the discussion forward. In this case, where Alaskans want energy answers now, we think playing the "PFD card" is a fair political tactic.

Got your attention, didn't it?

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