By CRAIG MEDRED
Alaska’s sputtering and stalling natural gas pipeline project appears to roaring forward again no matter what the media might be reporting.
Just weeks after Alaska Gov. Bill Walker told the Alaska Resource Development Council that he thought the $45 billion to $65 billion project “doubtful,” the governor’s natural-gas czar has suggested to the Chinese the project is on the way to the start of construction in 2019.
Xinhua, the official press agency for the People’s Republic of China, on Sunday reported that Keith Meyer, the president of the state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, “dismissed a recent local Alaskan newspaper report which quoted Governor Walker as saying that Alaska will not put more money into promoting the LNG project until firm commitments are made by customers.”
Xinhua writers Yang Shilong and Zhou Xiaozheng went on to quote Meyer – Walker’s half-million dollar LNG promoter – saying “the project is full steam ahead. The governor indicated we are expecting market agreements before the end of next year before asking for more money from the state. However, we fully expect to have customer commitments and also will be engaging strategic partners.
“The project will keep moving without question. Unfortunately, the Alaskan press misinterpreted the governor, which is quite common here in Alaska.”
Blame the media
Walker’s comments before the RDC were videotaped. His specific statements on the LNG project – which entails a pipeline from the North Slope to Cook Inlet and a plant on the Kenai Peninsula to convert the gas to a liquid for shipment to Pacific Rim nations – came in response to a question at the end of a presentation on the state economy.
At 25 minutes, 25 seconds into this videotape, Walker is asked “what’s the next steps in the LNG project,” given the high costs?
“I’ve long felt it must be a market-driven project,” the governor answered. “And it can’t be a state project. You can’t build it and they’ll come…it takes a market.”
He went on to say the markets have been “very, very positive,” though the state has no firm commitments for gas, and then added this:
“But do we continue on? I can’t say that here. Boy there’d have to be a really strong commitment.”
Walker then suggested the state should use the rest of the funding the Legislature allocated for gas pipeline planning, but said “I don’t allow myself to be optimistic anymore. I’m hopeful. Ah, and I am hopeful. But can we continue on after this funding? I’m doubtful.”