JUNEAU, Alaska — In Juneau, a debate is raging about an in-state natural gas pipeline. In fact, that debate is raging not just about one pipeline, but two. And neither of them exists yet.
For much of the week, representatives have been taking public testimony on House Bill 9. It's a measure that would finally bring to realization the generations-long dream of constructing a multi-billion dollar pipeline from Alaska's North Slope.... Probably the richest natrual gas field in all of North America... With 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
But this pipeline would not go to the Lower-48. It would deliver its gas right here in Alaska. It would run from the North Slope, to within 37 miles of Fairbanks... And from there all the way down to Anchorage.
It would deliver its plentiful natural gas to the two big population centers of the state... And in the future would sprout offshoots to the interior.
But there's one problem with this picture. The gas reserves at the North Slope are so huge, that the only way to distribute them cheaply is through vast economies of scale. Alaska only has 690-thousand people. And they don't use anywhere near enough natural gas to fill a big pipeline.