Readers lists state's priorities

Posted: Friday, June 06, 2008

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Gasoline is $4-plus per gallon. Gee whiz, if one buys a bottle of water at a restaurant or an airport, the cost can be more than $6 per gallon and few people complain.

There is no gas/oil cost crisis. If there were, there would be many obvious and overt indicators. Where are they? Look around you. I'll believe there is an energy (gas/fuel/et al) crisis when there are: more drift boats than power boats on the Kenai River; more bicycles and scooters being used in small Alaska towns than large, gas-guzzling cars, pickups, trucks and SUVs driven by one person; no ATVs and dirt bikes ripping up and down road right-of-ways; more dog-powered sleds than snowmachines; no gas-powered jet skis, chain saws, lawn mowers, air blowers and weed whackers; fewer motor homes towing full-sized vehicles; more car pool parking lots, commuter lanes on our highways and 3 to 5 people per commuting vehicle; small airplanes used only for business; mass transit becomes a primary people mover; and state and national energy agencies advocate conservation and development of renewable energy sources

Energy use is as addictive as tobacco and drugs. Few people quit smoking because cigarettes quintupled (and more) in price. Most people began stopping using tobacco when their doctor told them it would kill them if they didn't. But there are still many users with a death wish.

So, what should Alaska's priorities be? No. 1 should be protection of its clean, fresh water. Alaska is one of the few states, and one of the few areas in the world, with an adequate supply of clean, fresh water for the foreseeable future (if we don't screw it up). For the "doubting Thomases," try reading "When the Rivers Run Dry," by Fred Pearce (2006).

Priority No. 2 should be marketing North Slope natural gas (NG) ASAP, both in state and by export. Whether liquid NG could be packaged and used (like propane) to fuel cars and trucks should also be determined ASAP.

Priority No. 3 should be developing clean energy alternatives, eg, hydropower, wind and passive solar (where practicable), and Alaska should advocate central station nuclear power, while soliciting help from the U.S. government. Note: "Clean coal" is an oxymoron. All coal-fired power plants contaminate downwind areas -- from as far away as China -- with carbon particulates (soot), acid rain, heavy metals (eg, mercury), and radionuclides.

I believe Alaska and the U.S. have some potential crises, which should be addressed sooner rather than later. But the cost of gasoline, diesel or fuel oil may be a crisis only for those of low income, who can prove it is vital for their transportation to work or for home heating.

For our governor to propose sending money to all Alaskans to offset energy costs for one year is very naive, wasteful and not good stewardship of public monies. Gov. Palin should not risk another costly "food stamps for cigarettes" program.

Richard Hahn


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