The prospect that construction may begin within two years on a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope is heartening at a time when Alaska's economy is mostly lukewarm.
Gov. Tony Knowles, however, thinks the two-year target is a possibility -- maybe even a probability.
He's clearly serious about pushing to do whatever must be done to get the enormous natural gas reserves of Prudhoe Bay and other fields moving to market. He said he was dedicating the remaining two years of his gubernatorial term to getting the gas project changed from a dream to a done deal.
As chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Knowles has called a big one-day meeting to be held in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 20.
Billed as the ''Governors' Summit on Natural Gas, Responding to a Looming Energy Crisis,'' some top experts are on the agenda -- including some who have a very big stake in the 35 trillion cubic feet of gas on the Slope.
These include J.J. Mulva, chairman and CEO of Phillips Petroleum; Jack Golden, group vice president and president of Exploration, BP; Robert J. Allison Jr., chairman and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum; and Keith E. Bailey, chairman, president and CEO of Williams.
They're only part of the big-name cast Knowles has assembled for the meeting, which will be hosted by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.
But that's not all that's going on.
A week prior to the meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Sen. Frank Murkowski has called for a hearing before his Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to examine all pending proposals to move Alaska's gas to market.
Murkowski is on record in opposition to construction of a pipeline eastward through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or offshore in the Beaufort Sea -- routes that would by-pass, for example, Fairbanks and other Interior communities and deny them access to the gas.
It's been a long time coming. But finally, things are moving on what could be a huge construction project -- as the first step to bringing Alaska natural gas to market.
The economic impact -- from construction to ongoing production -- will be immense for Alaska.
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