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Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:16 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

Thumbs up: Engineering students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks got a big boost from ConocoPhillips last week.

The North Slope oil producer donated $200,000 to its UAF Engineering Endowment, adding to the $500,000 with which it established the fund in 2011. The money will improve engineering labs, create undergraduate research opportunities and increase academic support services.

UAF is planning to build a new engineering building by 2015.

Thumbs down: Alaska continues to be mischaracterized in national news coverage of the widespread legal push to end federal preclearance of elections in various parts of the nation. Here’s how The Associated Press put it in a news article this weekend: “The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.”

Alaska, as a political entity, has not “boasted” of its racial discrimination in more than 60 years, if it ever did. In fact, the state condemned such discrimination long before most parts of the nation. Here’s the basic question: Why, in the face of the evidence, does the federal government continue to require the state to get permission for even the most minor changes in its election system?

Thumbs up: Wood offers a sensible alternative to fuel oil in small communities around Interior Alaska, so it’s good to see people gathering in Fairbanks this week to talk about the possibilities.

Trees don’t grow fast in this country, so they can’t provide enough energy to fuel large cities. Consider the evidence in old photographs of the Fairbanks area. Within a few decades of Fairbanks’ establishment in 1902, the hillsides were denuded virtually from horizon to horizon.

However, small remote communities with access to large tracts of forest and/or regular streams of driftwood could sustainably provide much of their power needs with wood and other biomass. Some already do.

Thumbs up: The 147-foot blades on the wind power turbines above Eva Creek began turning and feeding a little power into the grid at

9 a.m. Wednesday. The turbines must be tested before they’re turned loose to start producing the kind of power of which they’re capable — 77 million kilowatt-hours per year or enough to power more than 9,100 homes.

Wind isn’t the cheapest power source available, but if the turbines work well and oil prices average $90 per barrel or more, Golden Valley Electric Association members still should save at least $13.6 million during the next 20 years.

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