OP-ED: Stars are aligned to make a major push for Alaska LNG
There is no doubt that our state and nation are facing many challenges. Inflation is eating into paychecks. The wide-open southern border is fueling thousands of fentanyl overdoses. The cost of energy is skyrocketing. At every turn, it seems that the Biden administration is determined to shut down our state.
Here is another challenge: Alaska’s Railbelt utilities are predicting that without further significant discoveries in the Cook Inlet, within the next five years, we will be forced to import natural gas from Canada or Mexico to power Southcentral and Interior Alaska — at likely double the price that we pay for gas now.?Imagine how that would negatively impact families, homes, small businesses, schools, and hospitals, just to name a few.
The good news is that we have been here before. Some Alaskans might remember how, in 2011, we were facing a looming natural gas shortage. It was so bad we were practicing brownouts in Anchorage. We were told that importing natural gas from Canada was the only option. But we didn’t allow that to happen. We united together as a state — the legislative and executive branches with the private sector — and came up with a bold, creative plan to incentivize Cook Inlet exploration and production. And it worked.?I was the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources at this time and was very involved with this successful strategy.
Indeed, Alaskans have a strong and proud history of getting big things done for our state when we come together with one voice, beginning with statehood. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was the largest lands claims act in the history of our country. The Magnuson-Stevens Act transformed not only our fisheries but fisheries across our nation. Many did not believe that the Willow Project on the North Slope had a chance of getting re-approved by the Biden administration. Alaskans united to prove them wrong.
Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) faced fierce opposition. But, spurred by the Arab oil embargo and ensuing American energy crisis, Alaskans united to support Congress as it passed, and President Nixon signed legislation for the construction of TAPS in 1974.
TAPS transformed our state. Now, another project — Alaska LNG — with similar transformative potential, also spurred by international developments, is on the horizon.
Global energy markets have been transformed by the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thanks largely to increased U.S. LNG exports, Europe has significantly decreased its reliance on Russian natural gas. However, because of limited supply, many of our allies in Asia — like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan — are still heavily dependent on Russian energy. This needs to change. Alaska — with our huge reserves of natural gas and proximity to Asia — is poised to meet the demand while being able to supply our own citizens with low-cost, clean-burning energy.
After the Russia invasion, it was clear that these and other countries were beginning to look at Alaska‘s energy as a critical opportunity. So my team and I got to work.
I have been to Japan and Korea three times in the past 18 months to drive progress on the Alaska LNG project. For example, last October, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and I convened an Alaska LNG summit in Tokyo. We were joined by key stakeholders, investors, producers, engineering firms, the Biden administration at senior levels, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and members of his administration, the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC), and Japanese government officials. The summit drove further interest. I also traveled to South Korea where I held a similar summit and met with President?Yoon Suk Yeol, investors and producers, all of whom are likewise interested in the project.
Since that time, there has been significant progress. The Biden administration has approved the Record of Decision for the Alaska LNG project, in part, because of its major greenhouse gas reduction benefits. Far-left special interest group objections to this project ignore climate realities: This project will reduce emissions by up to 2.3 billion tons during Alaska LNG’s 30-year authorization.
Further, because of the roughly $30 billion in loan guarantees that the Alaska congressional delegation was able to secure in the infrastructure bill, we can tout the Alaska LNG project as the only LNG project backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Finally, the expanded 45Q tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration will add nearly $600 million in annual revenue during the first five years of the project, with an additional seven years of equivalent tax credits. We are now also able to tout the Alaska LNG project as the only U.S. West Coast LNG project that has all of the necessary federal permits and approvals, including the FERC export license.
This year, investors and buyers have been coming to our state in droves to look at the Alaska LNG project.
Many Alaskans, including myself, have worked on getting North Slope natural gas to Alaskans first, then to global market for years — decades, even. And I understand the skepticism that many in Alaska bring to this complex project.?But after working on this big dream for Alaska for many years, we are seeing key stakeholder alignment in ways that have never happened before.
The stars are aligned at long last to make one more major push to get this project done. But the window won’t stay open forever. Competing projects both in the United States and across the globe are advancing. Think about what an unlimited supply of low-cost energy to all of Alaska, including rural Alaska, could do to lessen the costs of energy, attract and grow business, and even create the potential for an Alaska manufacturing base. Not only would this project provide low-cost energy to Alaskans across our state, but it will also provide a steady source of income to the state for many years to come and create 10,000 construction jobs and 1,000 operations jobs.
The fact that Alaska, with roughly 100 trillion cubic feet of proven reserves of natural gas — one of the world’s few “super basins” — would resort to importing gas from Canada or Mexico for our own energy needs, is simply unacceptable. If this occurs, the window for the many opportunities that we could achieve as a result of abundant, low-cost energy will be closed for a generation and good-paying jobs will flee our state.
Like we have in the past, Alaska’s elected officials need to work together to focus on the immediate challenge and the opportunities that this project presents. AGDC is working to secure $150 million for the next step in this project to finish the front-end engineering and design. Having the state as a co-investor, alongside the private sector, in this phase would send a strong signal to investors and help Alaska LNG’s chances of getting over the finish line.
I plan to provide detailed briefings to elected officials in the state Legislature on the work that we have done to better understand the two futures staring us in the face: importing gas from Canada and Mexico for our own energy needs and watching Alaskan jobs and our economy wither, or being bold and doing all we can to get this massive energy project over the goal line to secure a low-cost energy future for Alaskans with unlimited potential.
This is a big, complicated project, no doubt. And as some of you might have read in these pages, there are skeptics who have made careers out of being naysayers, with no bold vision for Alaska. But we a have strong and proud history of proving skeptics wrong and getting big things done for our state when we unite. I, for one, am all in. I hope others will join me.
Sen. Dan Sullivan has represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate since he was first elected in 2014.
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By: Sen. Dan Sullivan
Source: Anchorage Daily News