Senator Lisa Murkowski gave her annual address to a joint session of the House and Senate in Juneau today, with a brief speech that ranged over a wide variety of federal issues that have impact on Alaskans. She spoke of concerns about the fear that Eilson Air Force Base will be closed — to the need to put more oil into the TransAlaska Pipeline.
However, her interest in Energy was not limited to those national issues such as opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development or the pipeline. She also recognized that the state has its own in-state energy problems, calling it the most critical issue involving the state’s future.
During the question and answer part of her appearance, Bethel Senator Lyman Hoffman told her that in some parts of the state, heating oil costs have gone up twenty four percents this year, while heating degree days have increased by twenty two percent. He told her he had heard just this morning of people paying $150 for twenty gallons of heating fuel.
That’s a double whammy to the citizens of Alaska. Many of them are facing the fact that they are spending over forty percent of their disposable income on energy.
Murkowski said Alaska’s internal fuel supply – along with its cost — is the top issue for the state’s families and businesses. She has seen retail stores in small communities with energy bills of more than $10-thousand a month. She said it effects the military presence in the state, transportation projects – even North Slope development. It’s part of the high cost of doing anything in the state.
This is our Achilles Heel. Energy is our Achilles Heel. And if we fail to be more aggressive, and how we help our communities, our communities have not choice. We’re seeing people moving in from the villages – in your area in particular Senator Hoffman. They coming to town because they can’t afford to live where they were born and where their parents were born.
She says the cost of fuel on the national level is helping Alaska by bringing more attention on the issue in Washington D-C. She said the nation is now paying for short-term decisions made more than a decade ago.
The issue that we face in the Congress is What can we do today to make a difference. I think we need to stop framing it What can we do to make a difference today, to What can we do today to make a difference tomorrow.
As for steps the state can take on its own to meet some of its energy needs, Murkowski told reporters following the speech that she’s optimistic that some plan will come together. She said right now, the problem is that there are too many options on the table.
This is a dilemma for us as a state. And I think we’ve know it for a long, long time. It’s not about our ability to do it because of our lack of resources. It is failure to coalesce around one idea. Other states don’t have any options at all. I suppose we could be in a worse situation.
She invited the legislature to take the opportunity to make more of an impact on national issues – to tell her office about their concerns.