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Plans to Import Gas to Alaska

02lngimport         9/2/09

Enstar Natural Gas is working on plans to import Liquefied Natural Gas to fill Anchorage’s anticipated fuel needs as fuel supplies in Cook Inlet become scarce.   Dave Donaldson reports.

Cook Inlet natural gas is getting harder and more expensive to find – causing concerns that an unusually cold winter or an equipment failure could lead to service disruptions to its users.   That’s a threat South Central utilities and governments are taking seriously.

Presenting short and long-term plans to avoid shortages in the Cook Inlet areas it services,  Enstar’s manager of gas supply Mark Slaughter told the House Energy Committee that contracts are in place to carry the municipality through the next two years.  That’s barring any unexpected weather events or equipment malfunction.  And he says the company is negotiating with Cook Inlet suppliers and building storage facilities that will provide sufficient gas for South Central’s needs through 2012.

However,  responding to questions from Fairbanks Republican Jay Ramras,  Slaughter gave Enstar’s longer range plans.

# 02lngimport1                   :29           Ramras: At what quarter, in which year, will you begin working on the contingency plan for the importation of foreign LNG into Alaska?    Slaughter:  We’re working on that currently.  Because it’s going to take a significant amount of time to negotiate that, to come up to speed on that, to educate the state, to educate R-C-A, to educate the entire community as to what that involves.

Slaughter said the outside sources it is looking at are in Canada, Russia, Australia and Indonesia.   He told the panel that his company is also looking at a mix of other options such as new contracts, curtailing delivery to some of its commercial customers and encouraging conservation by residential customers.

Slaughter said that with easy-to-find, less-expensive gas in short supply he doesn’t see many options – such as new instate exploration in Nenana or Goobik, near the Brooks range – and opportunities to link Alaska to national supplies are now off the table.  He told Ramras that the company is still following the Parnell administration’s work on developing a North Slope supply but has backed off from its previous role.

#02lngimport3                    :25           Slaughter — Quite frankly, I don’t care where the gas comes from.  I just want to make sure I have it contracted for and that producer’s going to produce the gas when I need it.   Ramras – Mme. Chair,  quite frankly I do care where the gas comes from. I have a hundred thousand people that I and some of my colleagues represent – and that we all represent as members of the state of Alaska.  And so it’s a big darn deal to me.

Ramras said the lack of natural gas is hurting the Interior’s economy,  it’s put Fairbanks under Environmental limitations,  the city has lost its principal natural gas contract and just recently lost an electrical utility supplying seventeen percent of its needs.

The idea of importing gas is totally unacceptable to supporters of an all-Alaska Natural Gas pipeline   They point out that voters in 2002 approved an in-state gasline from the North Slope to Valdez, where it would be available for  use within Alaska  and also converted to L-N-G for export.  Former Governor Wally Hickel led that issue.

#02lngimport4                    :17           It’s our gas.  If we bring it to Valdez we can ship it to the world, we can ship it to Hawaii, we can ship it to Japan we can ship it to Korea.  We ship it to the world markets…. It is criminal to bring it in from Australia or someplace.

He heatedly blames North Slope leaseholders for not making gas available years ago – and  state officials for not standing up to them.


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Back to Basics

Walter Cronkite died today.

It has hit me pretty hard, because Walter Cronkite was the reason I began a career in journalism.  On television every evening, I saw someone who had earned the respect of my family and the world, not for an isolated accomplishment, but for being someone who tried to make me a better person so I and my fellow-viewers could make a better world.  Every evening, he gave me the information that I needed to become a better citizen and a better human.

My strong attraction to Walter Cronkite did not begin with CBS News, but with his children’s program “You are There.”  I was of the elementary school age he was talking to … the original series in the 1950’s.   It was history,  and he brought it all to life as my teacher.   “July Fourth, 1776 —  a day like all days,  filled with those events that alter and illuminate our time.  And  you are there.”   It made me feel important to see something important,  and it made me feel that television was important because it was where history was being made.

It was also Walter Cronkite who brought me back into journalism many years later.  Seeing him reporting on the Vietnam war and Watergate renewed those childhood dreams of wanting to watch history … and then to tell other people what I had seen.

That’s what journalism is:  explaining, giving facts, details, talking to people.  Letting people know what is important in your world and what should be important in their world.  Only part of the excitement of journalism is in watching and asking questions.  The rest of the excitement is in the telling of the story and hoping that you give people the information they need to share your interest.

It is difficult now to be proud of the profession,  but today Walter Cronkite taught me the final lesson that I only hope will save it.

Back to Basics.

Don’t chase or celebrate the personality of someone. Don’t try to advance your own agenda by tearing down something.   However,  don’t take the other extreme of boring the audience with minute details of some useless piece of trivia.

That’s the lesson.  The basic story, presented to an audience that knows you are interested in it,  can be riveting.  It can move them in one way or another.  And the journalist doesn’t care what direction they take.  He doesn’t sell a philosophy.  He just needs to know that they have the facts before they jump.

Over many years, I have often thought of Walter Cronkite,  This time,  I am thinking about how I need to get back to what I first learned from him:   you can make a better world by making better people.  One story at a time.


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