Alex Gimarc: Thinking past the sale on the big plan for decarbonization of Alaska’s energy

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By ALEX GIMARC

“Thinking past the sale” is a powerful persuasion technique that moves your attention from whether or not something ought to be done to all the wonderfulness that will happen once you do it. 

The most common and infamous example comes from the used car sales field, where the sales critter pushes hard the wonderful new world of sex, booze (or drugs) and rock and roll that will open to you once you sign on the dotted line.

The important point here is to ensure that you spend very little time considering whether to make the purchase and almost all time and effort on how Life Will Be Good after you bring your new play toy home.

With that in mind, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power out of UAF in Fairbanks is working a project named the Railbelt Decarbonization Study. The presenters gave a briefing / Q&A session Sept. 26 at the Westmark in Fairbanks. The video is available below.

The project kicked off May 2022 and is scheduled to be completed June 2024. It is being funded by the Office of Naval Research and State of Alaska FY23 Economic Development Capital Funding.

The goal is to identify several pathways to a completely decarbonized Alaska energy system and to see if it is in anyway affordable. Happily, the scenarios include Big Hydro (Watana) and nuclear (Gen IV nukes). Wind, solar, tidal, biomass, and in-stream generation are all part of the work. I expect them to conclude that it is possible to get from here to there. But at what cost?

“Thinking past the sale,” is what the Alaska Center for Energy and Power is doing, telling us how Alaska can construct a pathway from where we are today to a carbon-free future in 27 years (2050). This is their job, and someone needs to be doing that sort of analysis.

But the most critical question is not how to do it, but why should Alaska decarbonize its energy use? And if we choose to travel that pathway, what will it cost and how will our lives and the lives of our children and future generations change?  

As I have previously written, energy use here in Alaska is divided roughly into three equal buckets, electricity (90% natural gas in the Railbelt), heating (natural gas and propane), and vehicular fuel (gasoline, diesel, AvGas). 

Think of this mix as three legs on a stool. If one leg goes away, you can still remain relatively upright with the other two intact. If the electricity goes away, which it does from time to time, you can keep from freezing in the dark with heating and still retain mobility with your vehicle.

The decarbonization crowd would take us ultimately to a single legged pogo stick relying on electricity for everything. For me, something less than a positive lifestyle choice.  

At a more basic level, why should Alaska adopt decarbonization? What are we hoping to change? While the climatistas will spend a lot of energy arm waving and chair throwing about manmade global warming due to CO2 emissions, precisely what impact does a state with 732,000 people have on the global climate?  Is it even measurable? 

I would submit the answer is really close to zero / none. And if we are having no measurable impact, why are we even considering this future?

Choosing a decarbonization pathway before even agreeing that we have a problem is a fool’s errand, thinking past the sale.

This will be a difficult discussion, as we have a political party supported by half our population that already adopted decarbonization as a matter of faith.  They are in the process of installing it in their party platform.  As they control the Senate majority, expect some legislation to make this so to start percolating through the process in January.

Make no mistake, Democrats are interested in decarbonization, which means decarbonization is interested in you. It is their latest faith-based climate prescription, completely ignoring the unpleasant experience of Europe, California and Texas traveling that path over the last few decades. And if we’ve seen nothing else out of Democrats recently, they aren’t a bit bashful of cramming their shiny new solution down the uncooperative throats of a skeptical public the instant they have a one-vote majority in any legislative body.

This is coming. Be ready for it. 

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

25 COMMENTS

  1. “…….At a more basic level, why should Alaska adopt decarbonization? What are we hoping to change?……..”
    While it isn’t openly discussed anymore, since Washington DC adopted AlGoreism, I believe that the ultimate goal is to transcend the global energy struggle. While this goal is admirable, I believe it is ultimately impossible, and the nuclear option makes carbon pollution look good. Every Chernobyl/Fukushima makes that clear, and Alaska’s mini reactor project will eventually prove yet again.
    Global Warming/Climate Change is a political brain wash.

    • The government is not serious about this because if they did then all unnecessary entertainment would be stopped.

  2. AG and other climate change deniers should wait until the study is completed before claiming the sky is falling. If Red Dog Mine is looking at renewable wind and solar there must be something there.

    • Frank,
      The true believers have been claiming the sky is falling for decades, why would anyone need a small study about decarbonization for a population the size of a medium sized city in the lower 48?

      • Joel, and don’t forget Mass Corruption! Lots of crony capitalist out there waiting to make a killing fleecing you the ratepayer!

  3. Maybe someone can explain how Watana and pocket nukes aren’t “Thinking past the sale”. Watana as currently envisioned provides the bulk of its power when it isn’t needed. Pocket nukes are still in the development stages and anyone who has bought a first model year car knows they always have bugs to shake out…do we really want to be the testing ground again for nuclear, should we really be sending small nukes to remote areas?

      • I’m not exactly sure how having the award revoked will speed the process up…

        From the article you provided it says the ONLY company with an approved design just canceled its proposed demonstration project, I’m not exactly sure how that will speed the process up…

        I think the GenIV reactors are still in the nascent stages of development, as evidenced by there being a singular approved design. But hey we could always rush the design and send a nuke out to remote Alaska and hope for the best!

        • USAF canceled the contract because award procedures weren’t followed. Haven’t seen anything yet that indicating the project was killed.

          I think you are confusing “first” with “ONLY.”

          These guys are a lot farther along than you think they are. Shoot, baby nukes have been driving USN ships and subs since the late 1950s. Cheers –

  4. Currently the State of Alaska receives most of its revenue from energy production and export. To be a comparable analysis, shouldn’t the post carbon study include tax revenues on its non-carbon sources?
    For example, one of the largest stand alone components of Alaska’s budget is the Univ of Alaska. Will wind, solar, hydro, or nuculear power pay for the state portion of UA’s budget. It is a very short answer and “yes” has one too many letters!
    Once residents are paying vastly more for non-fossil fueled energy, will they also pay a State income tax that covers the cost of State government? IMO, a reasonable estimate is that an income tax might bring in $350,000,000 ($350m). But the State budget is over $12,000,000,000 ($12b), with a “GF” portion of $4.5 billion dollars (pardon if my numbers are dated, post covid numbers seem a bit sketchy). More than 10 times the likely income from an income tax.
    The total earned income in Alaska, as calculated by the Alaska Dept of Labor, would have to be taxed at 25% to pay for the GF portion of the budget. Except, post energy, the bulk of the high paying jobs go away. (Does anyone think we can tax electrical linemen enough to pay for State government? Ha!)
    Will a UA study consider the lost jobs and revenue from Big Oil? Will UA consider what level of Corporate tax it should be paying to the State general fund? (UA being established in the Ak Const as a Corporation.)
    What other significant impacts (hint: NEPA) will a post carbon study omit?

  5. Ridiculous to think there are viable alternatives that are financially feasible for the people of Alaska ! We have no carbon problems here in Alaska but let’s fix it anyway whether you like it or not. No matter how difficult life becomes we are gonna make you do things our way !

  6. Alex, thank you for your based and logical conclusions. It humors me to no end when I see some smug arrogant progressive driving their new VW EV down the road with their nose in the air not thinking for a minute that they are actually driving a natural gas powered vehicle. The biggest problem with the rail belt and Chugach Electric is the voter apathy which has allowed the unrealistic idealists to sit on the board. Like politics, rational voices count only if they are heard, which is through their vote. The current trajectory on the rail belt and in Chugach Electric is the visible result, not unlike the political disaster that has unfolded since 2020. Perhaps the silent majority will one day learn, perhaps… – Cheers

  7. Railbelt decarbonization project? HUGE LOL!!!
    The UAF just had a brand new coal power plant come on line a couple years ago. The brainwashed little climate change kiddeez and their wacked-out Democrat college professors will be keeping warm with the lights on courtesy of bituminous combustion for the next 100 years.
    .
    LOL again.
    .
    Of course, Usibelli will be obliged to give a few more $million to UAF and end up with more coal sale contracts to the university. The new plant only cost $275 million, so what a great investment for the future. Put the name Usibelli on a few more UAF buildings. The fifth and sixth generation of Usibellis should be living well in Hawaii, while the climate activist students at UAF watch the particulate matter settle around the campus and permeate into the classrooms.
    .
    Higher education at the UAF means lots more rail cars filled with coal, while the science curriculums and requests for grant money to study decarbonization pierce through the roof.
    .
    Excuse me while I continue to LOL………

    • No truer words. Murkowski pushes the climate action agenda, along with Peltola, citing UAF as a world class research institution for man-caused climate change …….while watching the neighboring coal-fired power plant belch out loads of heat and exhausted CO2. What an effing joke. The little scrub institution on the hill receiving $$hundreds of millions in “advanced” climate studies, while that $275 million monster coal plant shakes and burns the black stones 200 yards from the classrooms. The comedy channel has higher IQ thinkers.

      • Most of the professors at UAF live in mansions higher up on the hills, safe from an air inversion zone. All a bunch of hypocrites, getting their UAF income from the state of Alaska courtesy of North Slope petroleum, and staying warm at work courtesy of Healy coal. No wonder the UAF students are dazed and confused by climate change hyperbole. Their professors are all wack jobs.

        • That includes the entire Democrat Party. The only ones who could perpetuate the climate change hoax with full media backing and advertising. All brainwashed nut jobs.

          • Coal will live on as the Interior’s chief combustible fossil fuel for at least the next 50 years. That’s a given. It was always intended that way. So, for the next 50 years the UAF’s climate action studies are a huge waste of time and cost. Pretty expensive hoax. That’s the Democrats way of thinking.

  8. These phony university studies are nothing more than do nothings, know nothings virtue signaling to other do nothings, know nothings while cashing in on taxpayer’s money.

  9. How much diesel is a part of this story and why is it a secret? is it because of the ethnic heritages of those who ask the question or are the answer bearers too fragile, sweet and shy to answer a straightforward question. How much diesel is used and where do we get it? Germany? They are out. Explain. Yes. I know this makes dems hyperventilate.

  10. Sure, but dozers, cement mixers, cranes, boats barges, rails etc all rely on dense fuels. There are shortages scheduled. The density of wattage from air can never achieve the density of fuels needed by railroads etc to be built, positioned, maintained and relied upon as our clean resources God gave to us for our current uses. It is a highly favored human myth at this time.

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