Our Instinct: Conservatives Must Seize Opportunity To Save Alaska's Economy
|We admire Senator Lisa Murkowski's vigilance on Arctic exploration issues -- and the initiative of her committee's Communication Director, Robert Dillon. See TODAY'S COMMUNICATION AND VIDEO HERE.|
Many moons will come before Shell Oil and other producers, under the most agreeable circumstances, can find and commercially produce oil and natural gas from Alaska's Arctic reservoirs in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
Any Arctic discovery and production may not likely come in time to ameliorate diminishing Alaska production that funds 90% of state government and over 1/3 of the state economy.
The impressive but modestly increased production within the onshore National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) is clouded by the Bureau of Land Management's decision to lock up half of its remaining potential and continuous/agenda driven EPA and Corps of Engineers efforts to deny and/or delay permits.
The federal bureaucracy opposes the 1980 intent of Congress and is acting illegally to manage a Refuge like a Wilderness. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) re-categorized the Arctic National Wildlife Range (into a more restrictive "refuge"), but allowed a future Congress to approve oil exploration and production in a small sliver of the coastal plain of ANWR.
We know that even existing, high cost projects can be lost overnight with imposition of new or increased taxes.
Meanwhile, Alaska's North Slope oil production continues its slide downward exacerbating negative impact on Alaska state government revenue during this low oil price era.
This week we observe that (below) the Governor's reaction to an austere budget is not using his bully pulpit to convince democrats to join the republicans in voting to access billions stored in the 'Constitutional Budget Reserve' (CBR) savings account to balance the budget.
Instead, he is joining the democrats, browbeating the republican leadership to agree to increasing democrat-desired government spending as a quid pro quo to democrats agreeing on a super majority CBR vote.
Together, the Governor and democrats are pressing for more spending, not less, in today's austere fiscal environment.
And, they know exactly what they are doing. They are together trying to assemble popular support for increasing oil taxes during next year's legislative session, because 1) that would minimize the need for large spending cuts, and 2) THAT IS WHERE THE MONEY IS.
The problem with increasing the already high Alaska oil tax burden, is that it would discourage if not devastate oil industry investment that could otherwise produce a sustainable amount of future production and financial support for a moderate spending taxing authority.
Our instincts all point to the need for more effective communication.
Conservatives better become better communicators if they hope to explain why their tough approach on the budget is best for Alaska now and for future generations.
They could start by requesting editorial board meetings and giving reporters their personal cell phone numbers.
If they don't quit dodging reporters and don't become superior communicators quickly they will find that the current name calling will escalate. The Governor and democrats will likely initiate a summer program of constituent meetings around the state. They will probably ask folks how they think Alaska will solve its fiscal shortfalls.
Renewed demonization of industry and the legislature's republican leadership can easily be reignited; as could a new voters referendum.
And community organizers can produce crowds for constituent meetings and listening sessions that will demand, "Increase oil taxes"!!!!
Compelling conservative spokesmen need to articulate -- soon and often -- the wiser, approach to dealing with:
- budget shortfalls
- falling oil production
- bloated, unaffordable state budgets
- Federal government overreaching authority
- The future of Alaska's children.
But making silk purses out of sows ears requires a miracle. Our instinct further advises us that it is unlikely the republicans will successfully make the case for tax stability and fiscal restraint. If they wanted to or had the ability to, they would have been doing so every day and twice on Sunday for the last month.
While there are several very noteworthy exceptions, as a group the republican legislators are uncharismatic, unenergetic, unimaginative, uncompetive and rely on demographic majorities for reelection and support.
While there are many noteworthy exceptions, their democrat opponents are aggressive, young, seek out the media, and have fire in the belly.
As a group, democrats have the further advantage, as we've said, of believing and acting on the precept that, "The end justifies the means".
Political instinct teaches that democrats see a day ahead, when with aggressive and effective communications, they can seduce the entitlement generation into putting them into power throughout Alaska...and, indeed, the country. They've already done so within Anchorage city government.
And, for republicans with memory, that will have been an opportunity mis-handled THIS YEAR and countless opportunities lost for the remnants of future generations.
|ADN, by Dermot Cole.
A state plan aimed at speeding the transition to natural gas in Fairbanks reaches a key decision point Tuesday, with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority scheduled to consider a $54 million investment to move the project forward.
The AIDEA board, set to meet in Anchorage, is to hear a report recommending the agency buy Pentex Natural Gas Company LLC, the parent company of the Fairbanks Natural Gas utility, for $54 million, with a closing expected by the end of July. The sale price would be reduced by about $15 million through the spinoff of the company’s Point MacKenzie liquefaction plant and other assets to Hillcorp later this year.
ADN by Dermot Cole. An annual multibillion-dollar debate between oil companies and local municipalities about differences in the taxable value of the trans-Alaska pipeline resumed in Anchorage Monday.
The oil companies argue the 38-year-old pipeline is worth $2.6 billion, while the municipal governments of the North Slope, Valdez and Fairbanks say it is worth about six times that much, in large part because billions of barrels of profitable oil remain to be pumped to Valdez in the decades ahead. The state is arguing for a value three times higher than that favored by the companies.
News Miner. Gov. Bill Walker on Monday vetoed much of the underfunded operating budget sent to him by the Alaska Legislature and warned state employees that 15,000 of them could be without a job on July 1 if the Legislature can't come up a fully funded budget.
Peninsula Clarion by Phuong Le. (Note our extensive coverage by scrolling down through last week's postings. -dh)
Neither a protest by hundreds of demonstrators nor a permit violation notice from the city will halt Royal Dutch Shell's use of a Seattle seaport terminal as it prepares for exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, spokesmen say.
The violation notice issued Monday by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development said use of Terminal 5 by a massive floating drill rig was in violation of the site's permitted use as a cargo terminal. The 400-foot Polar Pioneer and its support tug Aiviq must be removed from the terminal or Shell's host, Foss Maritime, must obtain an appropriate permit, the city indicated.
Today's Note From Robert Dillon (NGP Photo), Communication Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources:
There’s been lots of misinformation out there about what the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has said about the safety of offshore Arctic development in Alaska. Let the attached fact sheet from BOEM set the record straight – it is not accurate to say there is a 75 percent chance of an oil spill from Shell’s Arctic exploration. Period.
The fact is that Alaska has a long history of safe and responsible oil and natural gas production in the Arctic. Some 35 wells have been drilled in Alaska’s Arctic waters since the 1980s. But you wouldn’t know that by listening to the opponents of oil production who claim Arctic drilling can’t be done safely. Hogwash.
To date, Alaska has produced and shipped more than 17 billion barrels of Arctic oil through the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. We’re already producing oil from federal waters at the Northstar field, which was discovered in 1984 and has produced more than 150 million barrels of oil since 2001.
And our state – with an estimated 46 billion barrels of conventional oil reserves and 430 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves – has much more to offer the nation. Studies suggest that increased leasing and development in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas and in Cook Inlet could, by 2035, create nearly 840,000 jobs, raise more than $200 billion in revenue for the government and increase U.S. energy production by 3.5 million barrels.
Even President Obama agrees that Alaska production is good for America: “I would rather us – with all the safeguards and standards that we have – be producing our oil and gas, rather than importing it, which is bad for our people, but is also potentially purchased from places that have much lower environmental standards than we do.” – President Obama, May 14, 2015.
Our friend, Julie Hasquet offers this heads up about the upcoming luncheon of the Alaska Oil & Gas Association (AOGA).
"This annual event is the best place to learn all of the latest information, facts & figures about what is happening in Alaska’s oil and gas industry. This year’s opening remarks are from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and the keynote speaker is Adam Sierninski, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The 2015 luncheon is Thursday, May 28 at 11:30 am at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage. If you haven’t already, please take the opportunity to consider buying a table for you and clients...or individual tickets. You can register at www.aoga.org.
TODAY AT 10 AM EASTERN, The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to evaluate opportunities for the United States to build on its status as an Arctic nation for the betterment of the nation and those who live in the Arctic.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (NGP Photo-Upper L) chairs the hearing. The hearing features North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower (NGP Photo-L. Said federal Arctic policy works against Alaska's and America's future and is like painting a mailbox while the house burns down...."); and Alaska State Senator Lesil McGuire (NGP Photo); and Representative Bob Herron (Said Canada is key to the success of Alaska and all of America). -dh (View hearing here.)
CBC News. A New Anti-Energy Tactic: inundate TransCanada's Energy East pipeline regulatory process with nearly 2,000 requests for intervention? If so, watch for enviro allies in the US to begin applying this technique throughout the U.S. -dh "The National Energy Board has received 1,805 applications to participate in the hearing for TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Energy East Pipeline...."
Alaska State Spending Commentary
Alaska's huge permanent fund fools everyone into thinking the state has no spending problem--including New York rating agencies that give Alaska a AAA bond rating.
The New York analysts ignore that Alaska is basically insolvent right now -- setting aside the Permanent Fund -- when one cancels its estimated fiscal year-end savings of $9 billion with over $9 billion in the state's personnel retirement fund liability.
Citizens in general just assume, "well, we'll have the permanent fund for a rainy day." Rating agencies assume "prudent management" going forward when financial management has not been "prudent" for decades. But our readers are not stupid. They can envision a day of divisiveness ahead when every public safety and education lobbyist will be fighting retirees and unions and matching federal fund programs and revenue sharing municipalities for the Permanent Fund scraps.
Yes, the time to control the budget is now, if not long past. The fiscal cliff ahead comes closer, for every year of imprudent (i.e. deficit spending).
Unfortunately, we see this independent governor and republican legislature kicking the can down the road once again, with only cosmetic operating budget cuts this year (We hope we are wrong and that courage will abound as necessary cuts are achieved. Yet the most courageous, right-thinking elected officials are a small minority and their demands for fiscal responsibility seem muted as the legislative leadership tries to keep the ship of state from rocking too much this year. We can envision many of these "leaders" retiring in the next year or two, hoping their own undeserved retirement checks are the first priority to fund by a permanent fund soon to be under siege.)
We believe odds are that rating agencies will soon be saying, "With its enormous Permanent Fund savings account, Alaska had the ability to weather volatile oil prices--assuming as we did that they would undertake prudent spending practices. We regret that their lack of prudence now requires us to reevaluate Alaska's credit worthiness."
Meanwhile, liberals and environmental activists must be rejoicing; the sooner Alaska depletes its savings, the sooner they can happily advocate higher natural resource taxes, exacerbating the death spiral of Alaska's economy and depopulation of the 49th state.
Below we provide readers with the raw data: we report. You decide. -dh
1. Here is Commonwealth North's new Alaska state operating budget study ("...the state operating budget has increased 102% - from $2.2 billion in FY 2004 to $4.4 billion in 2014.") More here....
3. Here are the rating agency reports accompanying the ratings they applied to Alaska. More here....
The State’s Operating Budget: Critical Crossroads, Choices, and Opportunities Posted: 04 Mar 2015
Over recent years the state operating budget has increased 102% - from $2.2 billion in FY 2004 to $4.4 billion in 2014. In Commonwealth North's study on the Long Term Economic Sustainability for the State of Alaska (January 2013) they noted that the current level of spending is unsustainable and it's imperative that the state implement a long-term fiscal plan, which will require spending restraints. Fiscal discussions have primarily focused on the revenue side of the state's ledger and on capital project spending. Minimal public attention or discussion has been given to the recurring cost drivers of other state spending.
As a way to find solutions to the budget problems, Commonwealth North enlisted the help of its Fiscal Policy Study Group. The study group is co-chaired by CWN board members Eric Wohlforth and Cheryl Frasca and the group was asked to produce a study that aims to:
More than 6 months of discussion and research allowed the group to produce a report that gives targeted suggestions to evaluate and reduce spending in the state’s operating budget. It is important to evaluate spending before addressing revenue because Alaskans will want to know that the state is being fiscally responsible before being asked/required to contribute to the state’s revenue. The recommendations from the report are below.
Budget practices and process recommendations- Governor
Governor’s budget development
Budget practices and process recommendations- Legislature
Each of these recommendations involves political obstacles and requires deliberative, thoughtful actions to ensure economic stability. Commonwealth North presented this study to public at an luncheon on February 25 and delivered the report to the Governor and the Legislature on the same day. Read the full report and presentation given by Eric Wohlforth and Cheryl Frasca.
ency Letters and Ratings
State Announcement: March 3, 2015 JUNEAU –Governor Bill Walker and Department of Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck today announced that the State of Alaska has received three separate AAA bond ratings from Moody’s Investor’s Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. The announcements come after the bond rating agencies met in February with Governor Walker, Commissioner Hoffbeck and staff members of Departments of Natural Resources and Revenue. The meetings addressed growing concerns about Alaska’s declining oil revenue.
“This is excellent news,” Governor Walker said. “Three separate agencies have each given Alaska a triple-A bond rating, which will provide the state with unparalleled access to funding for future capital projects. I look forward to the opportunities this news will provide us in the years to come.”
A rating of AAA is the highest grade assigned by credit rating agencies. It is given to entities with an exceptional degree of credit worthiness, with little risk of loan default. As a result, Alaska will receive some of the lowest interest rates available when issuing or refinancing its bonds, saving the state millions of dollars in the coming years.
“Developing Alaska’s natural gas resources is one of the top priorities of this administration,” said Governor Walker. “Securing these bond ratings will help see such projects to fruition by attracting potential investors and allowing Alaska to get the biggest bang for its buck. I also want to thank past leaders, who had the wisdom to create large reserve funds—without which we could not have secured these coveted ratings.”
On March 10, the state is scheduled to sell its Series 2015A $162.7 million general obligation bond anticipation note to refinance its Series 2014A bond anticipation notes. In addition, on March 26 the state is scheduled to sell approximately $100 million of its Series 2015B general obligation bonds to refinance its Series 2009A general obligation bonds, saving the state an estimated $9 million in future interest costs.
|See Consumer Energy Alliance's Friday Energy News Links, here.|
ALERT - ALERT: Anchorage readers should PLEASE attend Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) meeting on Monday. We hope that the Governor's Office and Legislators are represented--since the subject pertains to keeping the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) viable AND assuring the sustainability of South Central Alaska gas supplies! Details here.
|As Russia moves to cut Ukrainian gas supply, we wonder why the U.S. does not come smartly to the rescue with energy and weapons supplies! -dh|
We urge our gentle readers to review Wednesday's posting; we cannot remember -- in well over a decade -- posting a more useful, relevant and actionable commentary for our Alaskan, Canadian and Lower 48 readers. -dh
by Mark Edwards, Alaskanomics.
Posted: 26 Feb 2015 11:40 AM PST
In Part I, I outlined the background of Alaska's economy in relation to the price of oil and how the current price is affecting the economy. Today, I will show the root causes for the recent decline and will wrap up on Friday with the reasons we should be optimistic for the future.
What are some of the major root causes of the recent price decline?
Our agency has a public scoping meeting in Anchorage Monday night. Rather than glaze your eyes with a bunch of jargon I thought I would just try to really clearly lay out what it is about.
1. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for managing oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.
2. As part of that, BOEM is required to develop a five-year schedule of lease sales designed to best meet national energy needs.
3. BOEM has started developing this plan for the years 2017-2022. A DRAFT of the plan is available here: http://www.boem.gov/2017-2022-DPP/ [PDF]. This draft proposes holding three lease sales off the coast of Alaska -- one each in the Beaufort, the Chukchi, and Cook Inlet.
4. BOEM now needs to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the potential environmental impact of the draft plan.
5. On Monday, March 2, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown Hotel, BOEM will hold a public scoping meeting to get public input as to what the scope of this EIS should be.
In other words, agency analysts are looking for input like:
* "When you prepare the EIS, be sure to take a close look at the impact on species X"
* "In the draft plan, we see that such-and-such an area would be open to leasing. Be aware that part of that area is an important subsistence use area for local residents"
* "I believe that areas [A,B and C] should be removed from consideration for exploration, for the following reasons..."
Everyone is invited! We hope to get a good mix of input from environmental groups, industry Alaska Native organizations, etc.
Much more information about this is available at: http://boemoceaninfo.com/
Thanks! And, of course, I am happy to answer any questions about this you may have.
BOEM Public Affairs
Alaska OCS Region
The federal government would like your input. Regulators are writing an environmental impact statement to look at the potential impacts of future offshore oil exploration. On Monday, from 3 to 7 pm, they will host a public meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Anchorage. Everyone is invited. More information is available at: boemoceaninfo.com [B-O-E-M ocean info dot com]
Today's weekend energy links from Consumer Energy Alliance:
What's next for Keystone XL?
|We urge our gentle readers to review yesterday's posting; we cannot remember -- in well over a decade -- posting a more useful, relevant and actionable commentary for our Alaskan, Canadian and Lower 48 readers. -dh|
Alaskanomics by Mark Edwards.
Over the next couple of days, I will post a three part series about the current oil price environment in Alaska.
It is well known that Alaska’s economy is highly sensitive to the price of oil. Billions of dollars in investment capital flow into the state each year as energy companies both explore for new oil and maintain their existing fields. This activity has an enormous positive multiplier effect on the rest of the economy as major service industries including trucking, construction, finance, legal, engineering, retail and countless others see a direct benefit from the contracts and employment required to support this massive effort. Read more....
We Are Optimistic That Good Intent Will Win The Day Over Daunting Challenges!
A tale of two pipelines and two chief executives: President Barack Obama and Governor Bill Walker
Dave Harbour (Note: By Friday more links, references and other minor modifications will be added for archive purposes.)
We must be optimistic! After all, who wants to even contemplate the bankruptcy of Alaska or the destruction of America's way of life?
So in our Churchillian way, we will never, never, never, give in to pessimism and will fight to the bitter end…and overcome!
In doing so, like in actual war, we must count on our countrymen, the ones on either side of us sharing wet foxholes and stale food; the ones who watch as we sleep, with whom we share intimacies; the ones who would defend us then die or watch us die before each other’s eyes...and, the ones we have chosen to lead us.
So as Alaska strains to regain a sustainable economy, we believe that the best intent of our leader and his actions will pave the way to happy days again.
And we can see a brighter future ahead for the United States as we and our fellow countrymen feel our way through the morass of: anti-energy rhetoric, stifling regulations, oppressive taxation, wildly expensive litigation at every turn, unpayable debt, coffers filled with fiat currency, diminished morals, a flatulent economy buoyed up on false assumptions and its declining military capability.
Our Alaska leader is a charismatic speaker and compelling character. He was born in the state, is of humble and self-made background. He is a survivor of the 1964 earthquake and Valdez Tsunami and successful attorney. No one can doubt his singular focus on producing income for his family while following a lifetime dream to create a (Preferably government controlled) gas pipeline and LNG export project. Readers might research the history of Organization for the Management of Alaska’s Resources (i.e. OMAR) and the Alaska Gasline Port Authority (Dubbed the “All Alaska Gas Pipeline”). Walker’s history cannot be distinguished from the development of these organizations: cloaked in patriotic “all Alaska”, sometimes anti-Canadian, often anti-producer terminology, proudly plodding a path independent of the traditional business community, political parties and natural resource investors.
Governor Bill Walker speaks of Alaska as an "Owner State", hearkening back to Governor Walter J. Hickel's (NGP Photo) terminology. We are convinced along with a majority of Alaskans that these two men have both had the state's best interest in mind. Others reasonably think of "Owner State" as a socialist concept involving control from the top elite, redistribution of wealth, big government, high business taxes, and hostility to business owners (i.e. bourgeoisie).
To those doubting his intent, the newly elected governor famously said in one of his first public speeches to a business gathering, as governor-elect, “I am not your enemy”. He added, somewhat reassuringly, “You can’t be anything but pro-oil development in this state to be a successful governor in this state.” We do see the point that while some may view the “state” (i.e. however that is defined) as the primary beneficiary of public policy, others might be concerned that “freedom of the citizens” should be the highest public policy priority—and not secondary to the “state”.
Governor Walker seems to be a man of intuition. He acts on what he believes at the time out of good intent: to lead an Owner State. This quality of flexibility led him to first file for public office as a republican, then gather a large democrat constituency by switching to an independent affiliation. It was a crafty move that won him the governor’s office. Walker had much of his original republican support base plus new, liberal voters who liked his pro-oil tax rhetoric, pro-government ownership theme, pro-social program expansion (i.e. Medicaid).
He campaigned on cutting the state’s budget to a sustainable level, but facing the realities of office promoted only modest cuts to the Legislature. As a campaigner, he generally supported the larger AK-LNG project involving the state, producers and TransCanada while opposing a smaller, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) alternative created by the Legislature and supported by Governor Parnell. Once in office, he replaced highly experienced AGDC board members with inexperienced citizens saying that their major qualification for service was that they were, “Alaskans”. He then proceeded to switch his support, proposing a strengthening of the 100% government owned AGDC alternative as a competitor of the joint AKLNG project consortium which included the state.
We would note that while Walker qualified his inexperienced gas pipeline board appointees by dubbing them, “Alaskans”, he might also have said the same of himself.
With his youthful experience as Mayor of Valdez and most of his legal career devoted to promoting an “All Alaska” gas pipeline, it could be said that his major qualification for leading thousands of state employees, governing wisely, representing Alaska to the world, negotiating in good faith with lawmakers and investors alike, is that he, too, is “an Alaskan”--
We have also written fairly extensively about a government controlled effort to finance and build for the community of Fairbanks a natural gas utility supplied by LNG from the Alaska North Slope. During the campaign, Walker opposed the project of the previous administration. At about the time of the election, the major contractor reported that the scheme to bring LNG from the North Slope via LNG trucks to be regasified and injected into a to-be-constructed, Fairbanks gas distribution system was uneconomic.
After he was elected, the government agency responsible for developing the failed Fairbanks LNG project, announced that, “In conjunction with Governor Bill Walker…,” the Fairbanks LNG project would be refashioned into another Fairbanks LNG project, this time obtaining its gas source from the Cook Inlet area. No one explained why using the Agency (i.e. Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority “AIDEA”) that created a failed Alaska North Slope LNG project for Fairbanks would be successful in designing and constructing a feasible Cook Inlet LNG project serving Fairbanks. Neither AIDEA nor the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, to our knowledge, has considered the potential negative impact a Fairbanks LNG project would have on Anchorage natural gas consumers as competitive demand for the limited Cook Inlet gas supply will undoubtedly lead to higher Cook Inlet gas prices.
Earlier this week, we wrote that while we wished the new governor well we, “….hoped there was not a screw loose somewhere.”
On the bright side, we can see how dogged determination and flexibility led Bill Walker to the governor’s office. On the other side, we could be concerned about the wisdom of his decisions affecting the future of both the big Alaska LNG export project and the government coordinated Fairbanks gas utility experiment.
Here, Walker seems determined to have the government-owned AGDC project control the destiny of Alaska North Slope gas. Over there, he seems determined to have the power of government force feed the economics of a small, interior Alaska city gas utility. Between the two efforts, billions of dollars are at stake along with the economic health and future of the state.
These scenarios are playing out at a time when Alaska is the highest per capita spending state in the nation and the highest per capita debtor state in the nation. One might say, “Well, but Alaska has few people and a lot of territory to cover.”
That excuse for high per capita metrics might be convincing when there is plenty of money. But Alaska’s operating budget is 90% dependent on declining Prudhoe Bay oil production as is over a third of the state’s entire economy. Even with high oil prices last year (i.e. Over $100/bbl), the state was balancing deficit spending from its savings accounts. The low oil price environment now finds the state’s savings, this coming summer, to be in the $9 billion range whereas its Alaska state employee retirement account has an unfunded liability of almost $10 billion.
The governor’s campaign focus on cutting operating budget spending to a sustainable $5.2 billion has faded and the majority of legislators seem unwilling to become the champions of spending restraint—even as the fiscal cliff approaches. We regard this lack of leadership to flow from moral weakness: fear of loss of future legislative leadership positions, popularity, support, elections.
Yet, we must remain optimistic that out of a republican led house and senate there will arise true leaders, true diplomats, true patriots who will work with (or, against) the Governor to create a sustainable spending plan—no matter the political or personal fallout!
The low oil prices have also put a squeeze on oil production. Naturally, oil companies worldwide are spending less on capital projects with oil at $50/bbl than they were when it was twice as valuable. That phenomenon will exacerbate the drop in Alaska revenue from taxes and royalties over time, hastening Alaska’s coming day of fiscal reckoning.
We are left with no choice but to be optimistic. Yes, we are realistic and understand the challenges. But a majority of Alaskans elected Bill Walker to lead them out of the wilderness of insolvency to a new day of prosperity.
We must be optimistic that our “All Alaska” governor has the insight, courage, wisdom and grace to be both humbled at the challenges he faces and capable enough to overcome them. We are also optimistic that Walker’s propensity to be flexible will enable him to reverse course if he sees the ship of state headed toward rocky shoals.
Just as we are optimistic about the good intent of Alaska’s leadership to overcome daunting challenge, so are we optimistic that the citizens of the United States can overcome the debilitating policies and actions of the person they elected as their president, twice.
Some say that the lawyer, professor, politician, community organizer who became President of the United States is incompetent. On the contrary, we have followed his administration closely and believe him to be highly competent in achieving his goals.
When he first ran for office, he promised to engage in “Fundamentally transforming the United States of America”. We believe that none of his armies of excited supporters ever asked, "transform into what"? A campaign slogan was, “Change we need”. What kind of change? To his constituency, these were powerful, emotional draws, though ill defined, similar to Governor Walker’s reliance on “All Alaska” themes. Obama also admitted that his plan would cause utility rates to “Skyrocket” but we think most of his constituency may have felt shielded from those by 'LiHeap' and other federal subsidies.
Killing the Keystone XL Pipeline project is a good, contemporary example of "redistribution of prosperity."
This project was supported by a majority of citizens. It had regulatory support from the Obama State Department, since it would cross international boundaries. It also had support from a few but not all unions.
And, it had the dedicated opposition of the entire, North American environmental community.
Killing Keystone meant killing 40k free enterprise jobs while creating six years worth of enormous fundraising cash flows for coffers of environmental activists.
In past years, the State Department professionals would have a legal record that supported approval and that would have been that: it was, simply, in the public interest.
But this administration's strategy of "prosperity redistribution" left no room for a public interest decision.
This is why the current administration is also presiding over the corruption of America's traditional reliance on an even handed rule of law!
Since taking office, virtually every White House action has been carefully engineered to “redistribute prosperity” for political gain.
The Administration has designed its programs to create prosperity for those supporting a big government, liberal regime and to pull the floor out from under those depending on private sector employment.
This is not incompetence. It is a highly competent operation designed to increase wellbeing -- and numbers-- of political supporters and undermine the wellbeing -- and numbers -- of political opponents.
The President has faithfully executed his campaign promise of, “Fundamentally transforming the United States of America”.
Today, we think it might be difficult to impossible, for even the White House's most fervent supporters, to discover more than a couple of major White House initiatives which have actually been designed to support traditional American values, culture, and the rule of law.
Following are a few examples of the harmful changes to America’s values, customs and even the rule of law in support of the “redistribution of prosperity” strategy described above:
- Energy and Environment
- White House failure to approve Keystone XL pipeline in spite of overwhelming public support, greater energy independence, tens of thousands of private jobs, a positive environmental report from the State Department, improved relations with America’s largest trading partner, Canada.
- Refusing to negotiate a favorable outcome and being 100% inflexible concerning the Keystone XL and other energy projects while negotiating weak US positions and outcomes against Russian imperialism, Islamic Terrorists and countries supporting them.
- EPA acting unconstitutionally, to preemptively disapprove an Alaska mining project being planned on Alaska state leased lands before the project had completed a mining plan or filed for even one mining permit with state or federal agencies.
- USFWS acting with the White House to, de facto, apply wilderness status to ANWR’s 1002 area, designated by Congress for potential oil and gas exploration, without an act of Congress (i.e. violation of ‘no more’ clause of ANILCA).
- BLM acting with White House support to restrict half of the Nation’s petroleum reserve in Alaska from petroleum exploration and development.
- Corps of Engineers and EPA acting to block ConocoPhillips from reasonable infrastructure development in accessible portions of NPR-A.
- Federal Government failing for decades to clean up federal government oil spills created by its own operations in the NPR-A…then demanding special funding from Congress to clean up messes as it should have done decades earlier.
- Unrestrained and unreasonable application of the ESA throughout the western United States primarily aimed at blocking energy projects.
- Creating a ‘war on coal’ which six years ago provided 40% of the nation’s electricity and the lowest cost electricity for American consumers.
- BOEM and many other agencies providing ‘community outreach’ and other support to the White House’s Ocean Policy Task Force, thus unlawfully using money designated by Congress for one purpose to another purpose not approved by Congress.
- Designating Critical Habitats under the ESA when species were not ‘endangered’ and whose populations were increasing (i.e. Steller Sea Lions and Polar Bear)
- Using the EPA’s flimsy application of the CAA to stop Shell’s Arctic exploration of lawful, Federal leases
- Sending EPA armed storm troopers into interior Alaska to look for non-existent CWA violations in mining camps
- Using the Corps of Engineers to forward White House environmental agenda in conjunction with the EPA in on-shore areas (i.e. CD-5, Yukon River Bridge, etc.), rather than providing citizens with simple, agenda-free access to due process.
- National defense
- Using the U.S. Coast Guard to forward White House environmental agenda in Alaska’s waters when other Arctic nations are using their military forces to expand and protect Arctic jurisdiction for an area containing 20% of the world’s remaining oil and gas reserves.
- Creating false ultimatums (i.e. red lines) for Syria and for Iran’s nuclear programs while ignoring the cries of mercy from Christians and other minorities under attack by ISIS.
- Disrespecting White House military aids
- Culling the ranks of loyal Generals and Flag Officers
- Denying Purple Hearts for those killed or injured on base by Islamic terrorism
- Giving aid and comfort to the enemy (Article III, Sec. 3, U.S. Constitution):
- Engaging in treacherous and one sided terrorist prisoner exchanges resulting in unjustifiable release of some of "the worst of the worst".
- Giving citizen rights to incarcerated terrorists
- Publicly announcing plans for military operations
- Publicly announcing plans for retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan
- Releasing some of "the worst of the worst" terrorist detainees by executive fiat when the administration expects at least 30% to return to the battlefield, seeking to kill Americans and their allies.
- Threatening the Ukraine’s destruction by failing to provide military aid or energy support to the NATO candidate.
- “Fundamentally transforming the Internet” by having the FCC promulgate rules in secret to create government controls over that traditional, ubiquitous medium of free expression. (We appreciate the courage of our friend, Democrat FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (NGP Photo), who has second thoughts and could be the swing vote on this massive overreach orchestrated in large part by an overreaching White House. The five commissioners vote tomorrow.)
- IRS targeting of opposition, not-for-profit groups
- Federal monitoring of AP
- Federal targeting of Fox News
- AG dropping charges against voter intimidation by black terrorist group
- Federal non-enforcement of immigration laws
- Irresponsible release of thousands of detained and incarcerated illegal aliens, a significant number of whom are convicted murderers, rapists or felons in general.
- Irresponsible seeding of illegal aliens, including children, into cities throughout America without regard to educational, social, financial or communicable disease impacts on citizens.
- Stimulus spending projects designed to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars into the coffers of the administration’s corporate and labor supporters
- Unrestrained and unsustainable spending
- Devaluation of U.S. currency over time (i.e. although in a world of QE, the dollar is the best of the worst currencies, for a time at least)
- Continual stimulation of racial unrest in black communities by the AG and the President (i.e. Sharpton’s dozens of White House visits.)
- Transformation of College Loan Program from private sector management to federal bureaucratic management.
We could go on and on. And, we suspect our faithful readers could as well.
However, we now wish to end on our optimistic note: that the pent up power of freedom, of the determination of America’s people to ‘do or die’ will overcome a breathtakingly competent socialist takeover of America’s government, culture and political structure.
Since optimism leads to action which leads to success, we also encourage our dear readers to carefully consider the old analogy. The frog put in a pan of cold water does not realize he is cooked while the water temperature is slowly increased to boiling. America is entering the boiling stage now. Will citizens even realize the change that has enveloped their constitutional republic?
Or will complacency lead to inaction, acceptance and a slow but sure end to our way of life?
We are optimistically betting that, soon enough, our collective psyche will awaken both to Alaska’s daunting challenges…and the duty to recapture America’s values, culture and rule of law traditions.
TransCanada's Keystone XL:
Our Northern Gas Pipeline (NGP) friends will want to tune in today to Alaska legislative video conferences dealing with
1) AIDEA financing of an Interior Energy Project (10:15 ADT), and
2) Hilcorp discussing Cook Inlet gas/North Slope projects and operations (12 Noon, ADT)
Letter from a reader: Dave: Thank you very much for having provided the opportunity to present to the public the example of injustice that the Orange Hill Taking exposes. Your description of the “War On Alaska’s Future” is excellent. More here (2-24-15)....
Yesterday, we opined that, We continue to wish Alaska's new governor well, but hope there's not a screw loose somewhere....
Today we decided to further refine the story and that will take us another day.
In preparing to critique it, we urge our gentle readers to review yesterday's references and to those we add two more today:
1. Please review our earlier commentary, "It's Our Oil And We Are Sovereign, By Golly!"
2. One of our most astute readers is a natural resource investor from Down Under--not associated with the large Alaskan producing companies.
Being a private, individual investor interested in Alaska and being a firm believer in "due diligence" he has rigorously analyzed Alaska as an "investment climate" for several years.
Last night, our friend penned his own commentary (right hand column) which we appreciate his having shared with us.
His unsolicited, personal views may reflect a number of sophisticated investor views everywhere.
We hope that by honestly and publicly discussing these matters Alaska's new governor may yet become successful and and that the state can avoid any critical, politically caused, train wrecks. -d
A commentary written by our Australian investor friend to his friends and colleagues in Alaska (Please read in conjunction with our 3-1-12 commentary):
I was minded to put fingers-to-keyboard by your Governor’s recent comments on the Alaska LNG and Alaska Gasline Development Corporation projects (AKLNG and AGDC, Aka., ASAP).
They sounded very much like one hears all the time in developing nations: “We are the owners, blah, blah, blah."
Of course, he misses the point here: the State is the freehold owner but it has leased its rights to extract to others on a long term basis, sufficient for those others to book reserves and contingent resources in connection with those extraction rights.
In developing nations it is often easy to understand the motivations of the political leaders who say such things.
Their statements are usually a combination of not being well educated in international commercial and legal matters (and who can blame them) and because they see an opportunity to personally profit from a State’s resources.
I would strongly presume neither motivation applies to Walker, who no doubt is merely (i.e. in his own mind) undertaking a minor political tactical play in connection with appointees to AGDC, etc.
However, does he not realize that LNG projects compete on a global basis and although AKLNG has leapt up the league tables over the last 18 months, its chances of achieving FID are reduced by playing petty politics? (See our commentary on LNG global competition: 1, 2, 3 -dh).
It is of course a complete joke to think that the State of Alaska could by itself somehow “procure” (expropriate?) gas from the Producers and then sole fund, build and market its own LNG project. That's the sort of thing the Government of Mozambique might say.
Anyway, I expect the Producers to just sigh and get on with things - with however another minor reservation in the back of their minds.
(Signed by our Australian friend....)