Building a gas pipeline to the Lower 48 has been a dream of Alaskans for over 30 years. I have been involved in or observed the efforts to bring that dream to reality during most of that time. There is a common thread that has run through those efforts that is present again today. We should be concerned.
The common thread is that market conditions in the Lower 48 at first create a great deal of excitement around Alaska gas. In short order, a proposed gasline is scoped to bring Alaska gas to the Lower 48. The project in due course then runs into political problems, which delay progress until, finally, the conditions in the Lower 48 gas market evolve to the point that Alaska gas is no longer needed and deferred to “another time.”
The first time this sequence occurred was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the early 1970’s, the Lower 48 began experiencing severe natural gas shortfalls. During the winter of 1976, industrial plants and even schools closed periodically during the winter months as demand outstripped supply. Moving Alaska gas from the newly discovered Prudhoe Bay field to the Lower 48 became a national priority and Congress ultimately passed a law paving the way. Continue reading