Yukon Pacific is hardly a neutral player in the debate over how best to market North Slope gas, but two decades of promoting export shipments to Pacific Rim utilities suggests the company's views and expertise shouldn't be lightly dismissed.
Whether or not Yukon Pacific president Jeff Lowenfels is correct in asserting the Lower 48 is a ''phantom market'' for Alaska gas, his company's assurance, based on long-standing research and continuing discussions with prospective clients, that Asia offers a viable alternative market is worth pursuing.
Alaska's interests are best preserved and enhanced by hedging its gas bets. This strongly suggests a gas pipeline project sized to serve not only the Lower 48 market via the Alaska Highway, but also fuel both Yukon Pacific's proposed exports from Valdez and supply a potential spur line down the Parks Highway to Anchorage.
This goal of channeling Alaska's gas toward multiple markets should remain foremost in the minds of lawmakers and the governor as they frame legislation supporting a gas pipeline. As officials do so, they also need to look into creating an Alaska gas marketing hub in Fairbanks, the site best suited to allocate gas between competing outlets.
As he testified before the legislature this week, Lowenfels warned that adjustments are needed in the pipeline dimensions envisioned in the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act of 1976.
In view of the energy crisis spreading throughout the West, Congress will undoubtedly be sympathetic to fine-tuning federal laws to facilitate construction of a new gas line to the Lower 48. That's a matter for the Alaska delegation to take up on a timely basis, with the goal again being the launch of a pipeline project dispensing the North Slope vast gas reserves between multiple markets.
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