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Get to know Alaskans and ANWR

From the e-mail I receive, there are many misconceptions about why Alaskans overwhelmingly support opening ANWR to oil and gas development. Probably one third of the e-mail i receive assumes that anyone who supports opening ANWR must work for an oil company. Why else would one support it?

Lots of reasons.

Read this excerpt from Sarah Scanlon, an environmental group's spokesperson, in an article about how long it will take to see results from ANWR drilling.

"She [Scanlon] admitted, however, that persuading Alaska residents to accept this viewpoint [conservation] will be difficult. Alaska recovers 12.5 percent of all oil revenues generated within its borders and distributes them evenly among its residents, regardless of age.

Last year, each Alaska resident received $919.84 in oil returns. For a family of four, that means an additional $3,679 in disposable income.

"That creates dependency," however, Scanlon said, and added that because of the payouts, Alaska residents are more likely to be nearsighted in their view of the world oil market. For example, rising oil prices negate the income generated by the oil benefactor program, she added."

While she is correct about what we call "dividends" received each year by every Alaskan, her other point is a bit off.

As an Alaskan, i have to ask some simple questions. If ANWR is not developed, we will continue to import oil from Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries. Why should their citizens reap the benefits of U.S. oil consumption over Alaskans?

Secondly, Alaskans support for opening ANWR isn't simply because oil money lines our pockets every october (Hawaii, here i come!). Nearly 80% of our state government is funded by oil royalties. Our state legislature is currently putting a capital budget together that is five times last year's size because of oil profits. That is going to build and repair schools and facilities in countless communities. For Alaskans, oil pays for police, child protection, bridges, highways, and so much more. That's the good that most Alaskans associate with oil revenues. So when people suggest that Alaskans keep ANWR closed, we see the things that keep our communities healthy and strong put at risk. When you add the fact that giving up these things simply would mean a few more dollars going into Saudi Price Abdullah's wallet, you can see how it is a pretty tough sell for us.

Most e-mailers are surprised by my responses to their questions and comments. Conservation? Go for it. Alternative energy? You bet. Fuel-efficient cars? Sign me up. I say use all the tools in the toolbox, because in reality, that's what it's going to take to reach energy independence. And shouldn't that be our goal? Yep.

Permalink :: Posted by Clay Butcher on May 12, 2005 :: ::
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