This year’s Alaska Rural Energy Conference came to a close Thursday with a wide variety of topics covered and various policy leaders, vendors, tribal/municipal power workers, utilities and service agencies attending. Cooperative Extension had a booth with various publications, as well as some working models of rocket stoves to display. The conference started daily with a large session together, and then folks had a choice of one of two breakout sessions of panels before lunch with two slots of panels after lunch. Topics ranged from how utilities price electricity, how waterplants use electricity in a community system to latest technologies in battery storage. Extension presented an overview of how oil displacing technologies and conservation measures are being employed in about 40% of the State’s school districts (this topic generated a good amount of discussion). The conference occurs every 18 months and is run by Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) with assistance provided Alaska Energy Authority (AEA). If you could not attend, keep your eyes open on ACEP’s website for videos of each session in the next couple months!
While efforts to build up infrastructure for North Slope natural gas to be distributed amongst Fairbanks residents is consuming much of the Borough commissioners’ time, State government has been busy strengthening ‘intentions and mutual cooperation’ about liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments with Japan through memorandum of agreements. Gov. Sean Parnell signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in September state positive terms per LNG exported from Alaska. Though this is not a contract it does keep things moving so that there are meetings and continued communications. Japan has had to diversify its fuel stocks since shutting its nuclear power plants down the last couple years since the Fukashima meltdown, and natural gas has been on the top of their list in replacing nuclear. Though not known by many, it is U.S./Japanese fuel exporting that large in part provoked Japan’s aggression against the U.S. almost three quarters a century ago when Dean Acheson pushed for barring exports of precious oil from Japan’s war machine in Asia (1940). Japanese Prime Minister Konoye even offered to secretly meet after the fact on behalf of Emperor Hirohito with a willing FDR in Juneau among other places to ease sanctions and remove Japanese troops out of China, but other American politicians -and ironically Chiang Kai-shek – foiled the effort. Tojo then replaced Konoye and headed the drive toward Pearl Harbor….. the rest is history. Fuel is important and moves nation’s destinies!
For those in Fairbanks, there are free lectures this weekend by guest Utah Physician for a Healthy Environment, Dr Moench. He will address the health effects of wood-smoke and PM2.5. In light of Proposition 2 – “Home Heating Initiative” – on the ballot this October, this is one way to become informed about “the biggest public health concern facing our community at this time — our Air Quality”. The publicly open sessions will be at 2:00 PM Noel Wien Library Auditorium in Fairbanks, and then 6:30 PM – North Pole City Council Chambers. Join to learn and discuss, for your lungs’ sake!
The State AIEDC is currently working with communities that may be effected with a road built out to Ambler. Possible communities nearby the road are weighing in- Allakaket, Alatna, Bettles, etc… The main purpose of the road would not be citizen transportation but rather a route for mining minerals and delivering the extracted material to market. Yet probably the most appealing advantage, other than cheaper local goods, is cheaper energy available to villages that could be served from spur words off the main road. Communities see the bad as well as good that the culture and products that the riches of the Trans Alaska Pipeline brought in, and those effects are being debated in public sessions by locals as well as outside interest groups. Time will tell whether the road is built and whether the current plan to increase gas on the North Slope for the Interior may also make cheaper fuel available to the villages nearby this proposed road.