Some people are not big talkers on airplanes. I don’t blame them. Airplanes are loud and uncomfortable anyway, so the idea of half-yelling over the engines for hours on end is not exactly appealing. Last week I had the pleasure of flying to Kenai and I was sitting next to two gentlemen who qualified as airplane non-talkers.
We never spoke. But they said plenty.
I learned all I needed to know about them by looking at their clothes. The passenger in back of me was wearing a jacket clad with an Agrium logo. The man sitting to my right wore a hat embroidered with “GTL Turbine 701” a nod to BP’s Gas to Liquids Plant in Nikiski.
It was fairly clear to me that these gentlemen worked for these companies or knew someone who did. The question is, how do we keep them working?
What many Alaskans don’t know is something residents on the Kenai Peninsula are growing painfully aware of: sparse supplies of natural gas are costing Alaskans jobs on the peninsula. Agrium can’t operate without it, and the trend could affect other petroleum-based companies on the peninsula if nothing is done soon.
Is it a crisis?
It is if you sell cars to Agrium workers. It is if your budget is based on taxes collected from major industry. It is if the difference between staying in Alaska and moving out of state depends on the predictability of a job you have today, but might not have next month.
Alaska is better for our industry and workers. Losing either one is not acceptable. I applaud Agrium’s effort to advance the Blue Sky coal gasification project and look forward to doing everything I can as governor to ensure progress on that front.
Fortunately, the Kenai Peninsula is rich in both human and natural resources. Tourism continues to boom, and I applaud the efforts by the Kenai Peninsula tourism and marketing groups for packaging the area so beautifully.
The expansion of the Central Peninsula General Hospital means even more Alaskans have access to one of the best health-care facilities in the state. It also means dollars that might be spent elsewhere on health care are staying in the community.
History tells us the Kenai will boom again. Let’s make sure of it by pursuing a North Slope gas line that connects Southcentral homes and businesses to our gas. I’m going to work tirelessly to make that happen. Without it, the education foundation formula, increased access to parks, new bridges and more state troopers between here and Anchorage will be relegated to just good ideas because we won’t be able to pay for any of them.
But there’s good news. Lots of it. The world wants our gas. The world needs our gas. And I’ve got a plan to help them get it. On day one my administration will invite all potential project sponsors to the table so that we can gauge their interest in a gas line project. We will also outline Alaska’s terms. On the first day of session, I will have a bill introduced that calls for a law of general application. That will open up the process to all competitive bidders. We simply can’t afford to wait.
Fortunately, the plane I took to Kenai last week was packed. That tells me there’s still plenty happening on the peninsula. There wasn’t a lot of conversation about it, but at least two of the passengers did plenty of talking. And they didn’t have to say a word.
Sarah Palin, the former AOGCC chair and former mayor of Wasilla, is the Republican candidate for governor.
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