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.