Why I am against SB21 (and believe we need to repeal the ‘giveaway’ on Aug. 19)

By Bjørn Olson

I am from, and therefore of, Alaska.
What I know about life, the world and living has been acquired while existing almost exclusively in Alaska. In other words, Alaska has shaped me. And as I grow into stages of adulthood, I understand the importance of helping — in my small way — to shape Alaska, in return.
I was born after oil had been discovered on the North Slope and the trans-Alaska pipeline was finished by the time I was two.
I remember receiving my first PFD check and being unclear why. I did not understand, at that point in my life, that Alaska is an owner state and the resources belong to the residents; much less that a forward-thinking governor had insisted Alaskans invest their share of the oil wealth into an investment account.
For most of my life, the subject of oil and gas development, in Alaska, has intimidated me. It’s a convoluted subject, best left to lawyers, politicians, Native corporations and NGOs. I have never found my way into this conversation and do not have the proper tools to wield any authority on the convoluted topics. However, SB-21, the oil tax “giveaway,” as it’s been called, is something I have tried to wrap my mind around.
Many oil-producing nations tax private developers at a high rate and invest that wealth into rainy-day funds, as well as pay capital expenses. Norway, for example, deposits 100 percent of its oil and gas revenue into a sovereign wealth fund and withdraws from it to pay for public services.
Alaska, by comparison, seems to fly by the seat of its pants. Our best ideas for increased revenue include more leases and more development; reducing tax rates in a desperate attempt to curry more interest.
With no strings attached for the oil developers who want to produce, SB-21 can only be seen as what it is: a giveaway to the richest corporations in the history of the world.
Lost within the dialogue of oil taxes, investment, owner state verses owned state, TV ads and rankling discourse, is the subject of climate change, it’s effects on Alaska and our role as a contributor.
As sea levels rise, many Alaska communities will need to move. The estimated cost per person to be relocated is $7 million. Climate change will soon become a very expensive problem in Alaska, and we can barely afford to pay our teachers or provide basic services under the current oil tax model.
Alaska’s history is one of boom and bust. First there was the fur trade, then gold and now oil and gas and the glimmering hint of renewed mineral development. Our nonrenewable resources need to be reconsidered from a new vantage. Selling them off at a low rate to encourage more development is not a viable or sustainable solution.
There are many reasons to repeal SB-21. I have only scratched the surface of my feelings on the subject. It is very important that Alaskans consider what will happen in the very near future if this tax structure is allowed to remain; loss of revenue for education, roads and basic public infrastructure, income tax, and plundering the PFD, are all very plausible if SB-21 is not repealed.
On June 14 at 11:30 a.m., Vic Fisher, one of Alaska’s constitutional framers, will act be a guest speaker at WKFL Park, in Homer. The public is invited to attend, and there will also be a parade.
Remember, we own the resources and we are the government. It’s time to be the responsible owners our constitutional framers intended us to be.

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Posted by on Jun 3rd, 2014 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Why I am against SB21 (and believe we need to repeal the ‘giveaway’ on Aug. 19)”

  1. Dan Donkel says:

    If Alaska would repeal SB 21 and use some of the billions to educate all Alaskans on important issues like how to invest or start up an oil and gas company and how to make a profit from drilling and selling oil, this would be a great way to build and fill Oil and Gas Pipelines in Alaska!

    It is sad that not one Alaskan or Alaskan owned oil and gas well have ever been drilled and owned by the people of Alaska.

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