Hopefully, whomever is elected borough mayor will push economic development to replace the loss of Agrium jobs and revenue when it closes within three years, and the fiscal responsibility to prevent an overwhelming tax burden on remaining taxpayers.
I have no hope that the school district will ever be fiscally responsible until the state legislature forces needed changes. All we hear from school boards is the parroting of the administration's demand for more local and state moneys. Not one has ever called for more efficient use of the current funding.
The Pebble mine project has many hurdles before it can even be constructed let alone operate. Pebble will be in the courts for years.
The one area for economic development that will have the most benefit for the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska is the development of the Beluga coal fields. Agrium would not be closing if this had been done 10 years ago.
Beluga coal has advantages and disadvantages. It is low sulfur, but it also has high moisture content. There are many new technologies to solve the moisture problem. It is cheaper to get out moisture than it is to get sulfur out of high sulfur coals available elsewhere. The burning of high sulfur coal is a major component of of pollution worldwide.
Push the coal mining operation and the building of state-of-the-art Beluga coal fired low emissions electricity generating plant. Build the plant along with a coal drying facility in the present location of Agrium The coal could be piped as a slurry from Beluga. Some dried as fuel for the electrical generating plant. Some converted to a diesel like fuel to power the ships that will haul the dried low sulfur coal from the existing Agrium docks to such places as Korea and Japan.
The spin off from a coal fired electrical generating plant is waste heat. It could be used to warm greenhouses to produce high value vegetables and to convert the fish waste currently dumped into the Inlet into useful fish meal products such as chicken feed, pet food, and fertilizer. Other uses for anyone with an idea of how to use it.
We have sand and clay that with coal could be made into glass and ceramics.
The Peninsula could have a whole new industrial base of value added products.
Container ships usually travel back to the Lower 48 with empty containers. Return cargoes from the Kenai industrial complex would help keep shipping cost down both ways, and the ships could use the coal derived fuel made here.
The opportunities exist. Will the borough sit on its hands for another 20 years?
William J. Phillips, Soldotna
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