Alaska News Nightly: May 29, 2012

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Effort To Stop Oil Futures Trading Lack Bi-Partisan Support

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

So far all efforts to curb speculative trading in the oil futures market have run into partisan opposition or are hung up in the courts. Democrats in the U.S. Senate have sponsored several bills to put limits on how much oil can be held by any trader for the purposes of buying and selling to profit from price fluctuations.  Senator Mark Begich is a co-sponsor and enthusiastic supporter of that legislation. He says speculators are running the price of crude oil up far beyond what would result from simple supply and demand.

The bills are going nowhere, however, because they don’t have bi-partisan support. They have become politically entangled with other oil and gas issues, particularly the Obama administration’s push to end federal tax subsidies for the oil companies, which is adamantly opposed by Republicans.

Additionally, such a law already exists.  Two years ago, in the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress directed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to enact what they call “position limits” on how many oil contracts traders can hold on to.  But the regulation the Commission passed to do that was immediately challenged by the industry in court.  That case is still pending.

Senator Begich says everywhere he goes in the state, people are urging him to take action to curb high fuel prices.  This morning on the public radio call-in show “Talk of Alaska,” he said the situation is probably the same for other lawmakers during their holiday trips back home.

Begich is among a group of Democratic Senators who have involved themselves in the legal case over the CFTC’s “position limit” regulation, filing an amicus brief spelling out their intention to get speculators out of the business of trading in oil futures.

The speculation issue has not always been so partisan.  Back in 2008, with the price of crude oil approaching $140, Republican Senator Ted Stevens introduced a bi-partisan bill to limit positions held by certain types of investors.  He said in five years, the amount of crude oil futures held by market index funds had skyrocketed.  The bill was never passed.

Smithsonian Returning Excavated Shishmaref Human Remains

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

The Smithsonian is returning human remains to Shishmaref that were excavated over 80 years ago by a fur trader.  The native villages of Gambell and Savoonga will receive 72 funerary objects that date to the great famine of the late 1870s.

Moose Attacks Prompt Caution Warnings From Wildlife Authorities

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Several moose attacks occurred in Anchorage over the holiday weekend, and wildlife authorities are cautioning Anchorage residents to keep an eye out for aggressive city moose this time of year.

Officials Anticipate Similar Kenai Salmon Numbers To 2011

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

The Department of Fish and Game has announced the projected outlook for salmon runs on the Kenai Peninsula. The numbers look a lot like last year. Fish and Game is transitioning to a new method of counting salmon on the River and in the Upper Cook Inlet, which has left a lot of questions for both the commercial and sport fishing communities, who are returning from a rough year in 2011.

PenAir Bid For Adak Air Service Rejected

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

The search for an airline to serve Adak is starting over. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected the only bid it received for the federally subsidized flight route and reopened the bidding process.

Sitka Residents Testing New Bear-Resistant Trash Cans

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Residents in a few select neighborhoods in Sitka will be trying out a new kind of bear-resistant trash can this spring.

The local sanitation company is doing a field test of two prospective containers. Both are mostly plastic, and neither is considered “bear-proof.” All the authorities want to do is to frustrate brown bears looking for an easy meal, in the hope that they move on.

‘Boots, Bikes and Bombers’ Recounts Life of Ginny Wood

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A new book tells the story of a Fairbanks woman who’s set a standard for adventure and conservation activism. “Boots, Bikes and Bombers” is a compilation of Ginny Wood’s stories and photos.  The book put together by University of Alaska Fairbanks oral history researcher Karen Brewster, recounts Wood’s unique adventures, like bike touring Europe and sailing the northwest coast back in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Wood also flew in the Women’s Air Force Service Pilot program during World War 2. After the war, Brewster says Wood and friend and fellow pilot Celia Hunter, flew surplus planes from Washington to Fairbanks.