Oct. 29, 2012
To the editor:
Last spring, I was asked to participate in a focus group on Alaska’s energy future. Who was organizing the event and what was its goal, I wanted to know. I was able to learn little other than the name of an obscure research firm and that they’d pay me $100 for my time. But I agreed, since I am interested in our energy future. Who isn’t these days?
Small surprise, the exercise was paid for by ConocoPhillips, and the point was to try out a handful of slick television commercials designed to convince Alaskans that we should pressure our legislators to pass Gov. Parnell’s oil production tax rollback. I wouldn’t be writing this, except that I declined to sign a non-disclosure agreement they handed me at the door.
The best part of this disturbing experience was seeing my fellow Alaskans from many backgrounds balk at being manipulated. We mostly agreed that the governor’s proposal to reduce taxes for these immensely profitable corporations was a singularly bad idea for Alaska’s future economy, brought to us by a governor who has excess sympathy for the industry that formerly employed him.
When voting next week, I hope Alaskans will consider what we lose when we allow powerful corporations and their political apologists to shape state policy. We’re stuck with this governor for two more years, and we’re stuck with the oil industry playing far too prominent a role in our economy, our politics and our media coverage.
But we can retain some balance and debate in our Legislature by keeping Interior Democrats in office. Alaskans should think more about sustained through-put over the long haul. We need to make the most of all our precious resources, especially non-renewables like oil and gas. They won’t last forever, and their value only increases every year as global demand grows and resources shrink.
This increasing value over time is what will keep Alaska going — so let’s not squander either the oil or the state’s fair share of oil profits. The second part of the equation can best be accomplished by keeping Interior Democrats in office.