Alaska’s Dowager Statewide Paper Besieged by Creditors

Public Domain Photo: Anchorage Daily Times, 6-3-1942.

(Reminder: please scroll down for two more commentaries on Canadian / Alaska oil and gas issues and history….)

In this case: dow·a·ger, ˈdouəjər/noun.  Definition: a widow with a title or property derived from her late husband.  e.g. “the dowager duchess”.  Informal, a dignified elderly woman.  

Commentary:  Our “dowager” description of Alaska’s successor statewide newspaper is descriptive, however flawed.  For the Anchorage Daily News (ADN), now the Alaska Dispatch News (ADN), did acquire the assets of Anchorage’s legacy newspaper, the Anchorage Times, when it expired in 1992.  

For nearly a century, the Times (i.e. and its predecessors) reported extensively on community activities and was clearly supportive of free enterprises and economic development (i.e. Basis of Alaska’s constitution), whereas the younger ADN reported and editorialized more from a liberal perspective.  Our dowager analogy is imperfect, however, since we believe no one at the time would have believed the two publications had been joined in blissful matrimony.  Ou contraire, they competed.  But the younger one did succeed the older and acquired its assets.  

We also believe that the evening edition, Times’ failing was not one of content or philosophy so much as its failure to compete head-to-head with the early morning paper and overcome future shock.  Times were a changin’, and with the advent of electronic news advances folks wanted fresh news in the morning, before it turned stale by evening.

The failing of the now aged, dowager-like ADN is described in the link above; future shock undoubtedly plays a role here, too, also related to electronic communication advances.  The reality of her failing, leads Alaska’s citizens to wonder, in this age of fiscal crisis, of unsettling world events, of low oil prices and of smart phones, video and Internet news content, “Is there a future for a printed statewide newspaper?”  If there is, one further queries: Is there room for a printed newspaper that does not enthusiastically support a well managed operation espousing economic revival and free enterprise?”  

We now know that the dowager’s model does not work in these times.  In a way, we feel sorry for her passing; but our respect for the invisible hand of the marketplace overcomes our emotion.         -dh  (Reference: Our related 2009 editorial re: the ADN owner and Alaska’s “coming” fiscal crisis.)

Thomas Berger has long history of arguing for Aboriginal rights

Arctic Gas Pipeline Map by Dave Harbour

The Province.  … of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, also known as the Berger inquiry, which in … gas pipeline that would run through the Yukon and the Mackenzie River … In addition to arguing that the pipeline would provide no significant …

Our comment on the above link:

Justice Berger’s Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry involved visits to villages up and down the great river in the 1970s.

During that decade the Arctic Gas project (Map) supported by most of the U.S. & Canadian oil & gas industry, was first out of the gate and proved itself most economically feasible.  It would efficiently transport both Alaskan and Mackenzie Delta gas to market.  The LNG competitor, El Paso Natural Gas, would have only transported Alaska gas.  Northwest Natural Gas and its Alberta Gas Trunkline partner proposed an Alaska Highway route for Prudhoe Bay Gas and an entirely separate pipe to the Mackenzie Delta, down the Mackenzie River Valley.

Many testified to Berger about the benefits of a buried, refrigerated, gas pipeline’s economic activity in the heavily subsidized North.  Others opposed the U.S. – Canadian Arctic Gas pipeline with ‘help’ from outside activists.   Principal argument of some Aboriginal leaders along the right of way was that national Aboriginal land claims should be settled before the project should be built.  Others insisted that under then-Canadian law, the pipeline could be certificated and built without adversely affecting land claim settlements to occur later.

We have known many of those opposing the project, who have since lamented the dearth of economic activity in their region.

In large part, the Berger hearings along the Mackenzie River and his subsequent report, urging a pipeline construction “moratorium” justified the National Energy Board’s (NEB’s) decision, nearly 5 decades ago.

That decision disapproved the most economically feasible, Arctic Gas project (Map above).

Instead, the NEB approved a less feasible Alaska Highway project route and tentatively blessed a separate, future Mackenzie Delta link both of which history later revealed to be infeasible for various economic, timing and political reasons.   One appreciates, as well, that approval of any of the projects would have run headlong into the greater supply/lower gas price environment of the 1980s and, later on, into the unexpected fracking boom of the mid-late 2000s.

The NEB decision came immediately before the Federal Power Commission (i.e. The FPC’s agency name is now Federal Energy Regulatory Commission {FERC}) was to have made its final decision between Arctic Gas and the Alaska Highway proposal.  After the NEB’s decision, the FPC had little choice but to recommended and President Carter quickly approved certification of Northwest Energy Company’s Alaska Highway scheme.  A U.S. – Canadian pipeline treaty sealed the deal but could not guarantee the project’s feasibility as the parties were to find over the next several decades.

In their political wisdom, the Alaska legislature and U.S. Congress acted in the early 2000s to leverage support toward a new version of the Alaska Highway project by prohibiting the economic transit of Alaska gas to northern Canada, assuring the death of any future Arctic Gas Pipeline.   Ironically, Arctic Gas’ route across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (i.e. converted in 1980 from “Range” to “Refuge” status), would have delivered the maximum tax and royalty value to Alaska and made transit of “piggy-backed” Mackenzie Delta gas more economically feasible as well.    -dh)

Further reference: Our Archives

Les Leyne: Showdown looming over pipeline stall.  Times Colonist.  Berger became prominent in the 1970s when he headed an inquiry commission on a Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. He took the then-novel step of …

UpdateReaction is pouring in to the BC NDP government’s strategy to block the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

The New Bergers

We spend considerable time here analysing misguided socialist attacks on the U.S. generally and Alaska in particular.  It is noteworthy that our free enterprise champions in Canada face similar socialist challenges on their side of the fence.  To them and to us, we can only pray, “God bless us everyone”.

Circa. 1870 era map, Northwest Passage

Just as Justice Berger, practically speaking, was aligned with enviro- and aboriginal activists of his time to stop the Arctic Gas project, nearly 50 years later activists still make a living trying to destroy civilization.  And many Canadian citizens still naively entertain liberal causes, albeit with possibly good intent, to the detriment of their economy and future prosperity of their children.  Below are modern examples of how extremism is an industry whose own prosperity links to diminishment of capitalism and free enterprise.

Justice Berger may have been a pioneer, leading his country (i.e. via the NEB) down a primrose path of political correctness and special interest agendas.  That path was clearly valued above common sense and the public interest.  History will judge, though we will never know how prosperous Canada in general and Mackenzie Valley villages, specifically, might have been with their own financial umbilical cord, not completely unlike Alaska’s great pipeline.

How many millions of lives would have been changed for the better, had an efficient, Arctic Gas Project/Mackenzie Valley Pipeline have been built Circa. 1978 when the gas and the jobs were both needed and highly valued — or, in the early 2000s when gas prices recovered and before the fracking phenomenon economically blocked this generation’s access to Arctic gas?  And, would the torrential flow of Arctic gas to the Lower 48 have caused a depletion of Prudhoe Bay oil recovery…or, would that huge volume of gas have removed the incentive to develop new, technically advanced fracking technology?

Meanwhile, will Canada, her provinces and territories 1) keep flowing taxpayer subsidies north to replace rejected, free enterprises; as 2) oil and gas exploration, production and transportation projects are harassed and regulated and taxed and, for good measure, paralyzed by certain aboriginal legal assaults?  (Though we have had the greatest respect for the balanced, business-cultural management of Canada’s Inuvialuit and Gwich’in — and many aboriginal politicians of Canada’s far Northwest — and several other more southerly aboriginal leaders and groups that rely more on self-determination than a subsidy lifestyle and economic pressure tactics.)

Clearly, the U.S. and Canada have agenda driven activists working from within to accumulate power and various special interests.  Having that shared experience, perhaps both countries can now justify the need for policies that place as much emphasis on economic survival and national freedom as on socio-environmental protests, lawsuits and lobbying.

Yes, we do pray that our leaders will begin remember that the public interest–the national interest–supersedes special interests.

Not all pioneers should be remembered as heroes, like the REAL HEROES: Franklin, McKenzie and Thompson.  


(Note: We always urge readers to help us with historical/factual accuracy.  Thus, we strive for our archives to be worthy of continuing use by companies, governments, academia and the media.  Contact us here with additions/corrections,


Minister Sousa misses the big picture on Ontario’s economy and finances
(Appeared in the Toronto Sun) by Ben Eisen

A new climate horror story rears its head
(Appeared in the Vancouver Province) by Kenneth P. Green

Obstacles to business investment in Ontario—high electricity prices
by Ben Eisen and David Watson

Alberta fuelled Canada’s post-recession economic growth
by Steve Lafleur and David Watson

Ontario—how not to centrally plan the power system
(Appeared in the Toronto Sun) by Kenneth P. Green

Uncertainty continues to plague Canada’s mining industry
by Kenneth P. Green, Ashley Stedman

 Yesterday, our Mid-Atlantic energy analyst friend adds a comment on the Canadian situation that we address today.  Neither of us read the other’s comments before preparing ours.

He reported that after a recent trip north that, “We took the opportunity to study energy matters in Canada, with a view toward how they might affect what is happening in the U.S. Big subject, but there were a couple of major observations:

  1. Canada has taken a decided political move to the Left in the last couple of years, with new premiers in British Columbia, Alberta (the energy home of Canada!), and Ontario. These are in addition to Liberal Justin Trudeau as the Prime Minister.
  2. Canada is developing a large coterie of major groups that actively oppose major new energy projects. These include many First Nation (the Canadian version of Indian groups in the U.S. but much bigger proportionately) groups, and other local groups.

“The bottom line is that Canadian energy interests are having at least as much difficulty as the counterparts in U.S. in getting major projects approved. The most notable examples:

  • Major LNG projects slated to be built in British Columbia, exemplified by the cancellation of the Petronas’ $35 billion facility (first story below). These would have a theoretical advantage over most U.S. projects, owing to their closer proximity to large Asian market and the large volume of stranded natural gas in Canada’s western provinces.
  • Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, scheduled to move the stranded gas west. Opposition is raising the cost and possible delaying the start.
  • The Energy East pipeline, which would move oil to New Brunswick from Alberta, especially if the Keystone XL project falters. It should have been a chip shot, since much of its path is already built out. But is has run into an onslaught of opposition, and is essentially stuck in a time warp. There has been no substantive move on the project this year.

“Bottom Line: The U.S. energy scene may benefit from the fact that, on a net basis, major projects (especially LNG facilities) are actually progressing much faster here than in Canada.”