Two Bills Offer Short- and Long-term Energy Relief

Two bills that, combined, would give Alaskans some relief from high energy costs got jump starts today.   A Senate bill would help meet short-term needs;  a House bill would take a long-term approach.

Legislators recognize – and often use as an excuse – the short-term versus long-term approach to resolving many problems.   However, Fairbanks Senator Joe Thomas has a bill that would give an energy grant to everyone who get a Permanent Fund dividend.  And North Pole Representative Tammie Wilson has one that would provide low-cost loans for people who want to convert to a more economical heating source.

Each passed from one side of the building to the other,  setting up quick long-term solutions for the public.

Democrat Thomas – in a explaining his grant program on the Senate floor – said his plan is a way to alleviate the public’s concern and frustration with the problems facing them.

We’ve talked about pipelines, we’ve talked about dams.  Everything seems to be somewhere in the future.  We know that federal regulations are slowing the pace of permitting projects, to the continuous slippage of timelines for delivering of natural gas to the interior, bureaucratic hurdles arising in front of good necessary projects, and the general public is growing weary of those excuses they read in the paper why things are being delayed.

His bill would give every Alaskan a voucher they can exchange for two hundred fifty gallons of home heating oil – or its equivalent in electricity or gas.   It can be use by renters who don’t directly pay fuel bills – or can be cashed in by those who live off the grid.

The only opposition to either bill came from North Pole Republican John Coghill on the Senate floor.  Coghill said the voucher program would lead to an expectation of government support.

What we do is we create an economy that depends upon something that it cannot produce its way into.  It’s painful to stand up here and say this is not the best solution in my view. because I know there’s people in my home area that are just hurting.  But I don’t know this is the solution for that hurting.

Republican Wilson’s conversion bill would allow ten-year, one-percent loans of up to $75-hundred dollars to cover the cost of changing from oil to a less-expensive alternative. It is a program offered statewide – but it was originally presented to address the costs of fuel and the air pollution problems in the interior.   Fairbanks’ Democrat Bob Miller said the bill will help solve both problems

It will allow a low-interest loan to be made to those folks who desperately want to change their types of heating etc. and it will also provide for a payback.  So the state will not necessarily be out this money, it will be paid back. That’s a good thing.  It will also help to get us into cleaner types of furnaces, etc., so it’s going to help clean up our air pollution.  I strongly ask for your support on this.  This is an entirely good bill

Wilson’s bill now goes to the Senate and Thomas’ bill will next be up for consideration in the House.

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