According to Scott Heyworth, Alaska -- not big oil companies -- needs to step forward to ensure North Slope natural gas makes it to the world marketplace.
Heyworth is the chief sponsor of Ballot Measure 3, which seeks to create an Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority with the purpose of building a gas pipeline from the Arctic to Prince William Sound. Heyworth touted the proposal to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce as a way to spur Alaska's economy.
"Why am I here? I want to put Alaska back to work," Heyworth said at the chamber's weekly meeting Tuesday.
It's Heyworth's contention that an all-Alaska gas line authority would allow the state to get the most money from its enormous natural gas reserves on the North Slope. He argued that other proposed plans, such as one for a gas line to follow the Alaska Highway south through Canada, don't provide the benefits to the state an all-Alaska plan would.
"(Alaska's congressional delegation) is working on it, it's a possibility, but it's got a lot of problems," Heyworth said about the Canadian line.
Heyworth said one of those problems is that such a plan might take several years before it ever becomes feasible.
"How long can we wait to go to work?" he asked.
Building an Alaska line would provide the state with a $12 billion construction project, new jobs and the potential for Alaska to develop a manufacturing and petrochemical industry.
He argued that if Alaska's gas travels through Canada, existing manufacturers in Alberta will use Alaska's resources to fuel an emerging petrochemical industry. If the gas stays in Alaska, Heyworth said, Alaska could use the hydrocarbons present in natural gas to build its own plastics manufacturing industry.
"Glass is history. Plastics is what's going on," he said, holding up a plastic water bottle.
With a plastics industry up and running off state gas, Alaska could then begin exporting other Alaska resources, such as seafood and bottled water, in Alaska-made packaging.
With the Kenai River at near flood-stage visible through the windows of the Riverside House restaurant, Heyworth asked, "Does anyone know where I can find some water?" getting a chuckle from the audience.
Heyworth said opponents of the ballot proposition unfairly claim the project would tap into the Alaska Permanent Fund. He said the project would be funded primarily through the issuance of bonds, which would likely be highly sought after by investors anxious to get in on Alaska's next boom.
"Opponents are saying, 'We'll have to take it out of the permanent fund.' That's not what this bill says," Heyworth said, claiming his phone had been "ringing off the hook" with investors anxious to support the project.
With other gas line proposals still tied up at various levels of planning, Heyworth said Ballot Measure 3 gives Alaska its best shot at making money off North Slope natural gas. He said once Alaska's gas is available, world markets will emerge.
"People are going to want to invest in this. Let's let the market tell us we don't have a product."
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