Wanted: Development

Posted: Sunday, May 23, 2004

On Wednesday, Alaska reported its largest oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet since 1986.

The day before the federal government canceled a lease sale in the lower inlet because of lack of interest.

Although they dropped Friday, oil prices continue to hover near $40 a barrel.

The fuel for thought here is: While interest in the region's energy resources is high, it has its limits. In the lower inlet, for example, the risk-to-reward ratio apparently is too high for companies to consider the investment. High prices at the pump, so far, don't seem to be having much effect on consumption.

The United States talks about weaning itself from its dependence on foreign oil. Alaska, and the rest of the nation, would do well to consider lessening its dependence on oil. Period.

Oil and gas are finite resources. Sure, there's more out there waiting to be discovered, but do we really want to wait until it's all gone before we change our habits?

Some will take it for heresy, especially since Alaskans' very way of life is fueled by money earned from oil profits, but this state should be leading the way in developing alternative sources of energy. The reason Alaska should take the lead is because it knows all too well the pitfalls of dependence on one resource.

While the high price of oil has kept the state from disaster more than once, we seem to forget those prices could plunge overnight.

Incentives are offered to the oil industry, why not offer incentives for citizens to drive vehicles that get great gas mileage or small businesses that find ways to cut their energy consumption without cutting their productivity?

As Alaska seeks to diversify its economy, why not aggressively court those companies whose focus is on developing alternative sources of energy?

Future generations of Alaskans will be better off if the state invested more of its energy in developing new fuel sources today instead of waiting until all its oil and gas are gone.

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