Pebble Mine: the long and short of it

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In business or life the short run might be a time sequence consisting of a few hours, days, months, years, or even, decades. The long run includes a time frame encompassing not only decades, but also generations and beyond.

In the mid 18th century, Russians made contact with the landmass we currently know as Alaska. In the short run, Russians were mostly interested with the idea of extraction or taking of seal fur for profit. This interest evolved to the kidnapping and forced labor of natives who had lived here for thousands of years.

In the long run, when the extraction of seal fur became too cost prohibitive for Russians to continue to realize profits, they abandoned Alaska and sold the land to America in the late 1860s just after our Civil War.

Fast forward to the Alaska of our present. In the short run, oil companies are delighted to extract the oil that lies buried under the Alaska soil and water, most of which is hundreds of miles away from the greater mass of population and poses a very small risk to the financial infrastructure of Alaskans who make their profits off renewable resources (fishing, hunting, tourism) should there be an emergency spill.

In the short run, we Alaskans also enjoy an increased financial benefit from this extraction due to the increased oil revenues, the dividend and the money oil companies contribute to the state in the terms of art, community service and education.

In the long run, where will these companies be when the extraction of oil and gas has run its course?

Recently we, as Alaskans, are faced with a decision that again has implications for the short and the long run in the form of an economic issue known as the Pebble Mine.

In the short run, it seems that state profits from the extraction of the mineral resources from the Pebble Mine would be a boon for Alaska to the amount of perhaps millions, if not billions, of dollars in term of jobs and revenues from the mine.

But one must ask what is it that Alaska has to offer for our posterity, our children and grandchildren, in the long run?

One might argue that what Alaska has to offer in the long run is Alaska itself. One might argue that the unspoiled, tourist-friendly, fisher, hiker, outdoor-enthusiast Alaska in the long run is the best we have to offer those who come after us to the tune of who knows how many millions or billions of dollars.

What might it mean for Alaska, in the long run, should the Pebble Mine become an agent of destruction to the renewable, long-term profits Alaska has to offer her children?

It seems the idea of the Pebble Mine comes down to whether Alaska is willing to plan for the long run or settle for the quick profits in the short run.

Mike Gustkey


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