Legislators Return from Norway Trip

A group of 40 Alaskans – including a dozen legislators — have returned from a tour of Norway, where their goal was to get a look at another oil economy.

The trip was organized by the Institute of the North.

Larry Persily, the federal natural gas pipeline coordinator, says the participants found a few areas in which Norway deals with the oil and gas industry differently than Alaska – and says there was interest in exploring the new ideas.

At the top of the list was Norway’s State Direct Financial Investment policy – where the government itself actually owns a percentage of everything that is produced – as neither operator nor regulator, but as shareholder.

Persily says Alaskans on the trip also were interested to learn that oil and gas companies do not pay in advance to develop properties.   Alaska awards a lease to the highest bidder.  But Persily says the Alaskans liked the Norwegian idea of awarding leases based on merit.

Senate President Gary Stevens was among those attending the sessions. He also stopped for a related tour of Iceland.   He points to other elements of government – such as using oil proceeds to develop domestic energy sources – particularly renewable energy.

While in Norway, the Alaskans had the opportunity to meet with top government officials.  Persily and Stevens say there are several things Alaska will not try to duplicate – a 50 percent personal income tax,  a 25 percent value added sales tax – or a 78 percent tax on offshore oil profits.  Persily says the markets are different, too.   Norway’s customers are mostly in Europe — a lot closer to the resource than Alaska’s customers – and there is little use of the energy within Norway.  The exporter relies almost entirely on hydroelectric and other renewable resources for its own power.

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