Time is now to resolve Alaska’s great contradictions

Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (May 15, 2019) Photo courtesy of Paxson Woelber/The Alaska Landmine

By Gov. Mike Dunleavy
For The Cordova Times

Our great state is also a land of great contradictions.

Some of those are quirky, like having the farthest points both east and west in the United States.

More than twice as big as Texas, we are the largest state by far, but only Vermont and Wyoming have smaller populations. We have more caribou than we do people.

Some of our contradictions are more serious.

We have the largest reserves of natural gas and renewable energy potential in the United States, yet we have the second-highest energy costs in the nation.

We have the largest amount of undiscovered conventional oil resources among any state in the U.S., but we rank just fourth in production.

The Tongass National Forest is the largest in the nation, yet our timber industry is smaller than Rhode Island’s.

We can send rockets into outer space at Kodiak, yet we lack the ability to produce enough food to feed ourselves.

Although we have more land than any other state, less than 1 percent is in private hands and our state government policies make increasing this amount difficult to impossible.

We have the highest inflation in 40 years and are collecting a windfall surplus of more than $3 billion from skyrocketing oil prices, yet we have some in the Legislature who are in no hurry to share this windfall with the people of Alaska.

We have the worst education outcomes in the country, yet we have some in the Legislature who are reluctant to pass a bill to improve our reading proficiency.

Some of our contradictions as a state are features of geography, but the most serious ones are a result of policies at the state and federal level.

The greatest contradiction of all is that we remain at the mercy of others and forces beyond our control even though we have everything we need to feed ourselves, to power our economy with cheap energy, and to be a reliable source of resources for our fellow Americans and our allies around the world.

Now more than ever, we must take control of our destiny that is envisioned in our state motto of “North to the Future.”

As I said in my State of the State address on Jan. 25, “make no mistake, at some future date, there will be another disruption to our supply chain.”

That date arrived when Russia invaded Ukraine a month later on Feb. 24.

Oil prices that had already been climbing at a historic rate spiked to $130 per barrel.

Spot markets for natural gas in Asia soared from $6 per unit in March 2021 to $51 a year later.

The London Metal Exchange halted nickel trading for the first time since 1985.

The global food supply is in jeopardy as Russia and Ukraine collectively produce a third of the world’s wheat and barley exports, along with corn and sunflower oil that is used in food processing and cooking oil.

Fertilizer prices are also rising as Russia produces 13 percent of the world supply.

In short, the basic needs of civilization – food and energy – are at risk.

We can do little in Alaska to stop this war, but we are well-positioned to enact policies to protect ourselves, our nation, and our allies from these global supply disruptions.

Legislators have the bills before them to provide relief to Alaskans who are being hurt by crippling inflation, to lower and stabilize our cost of energy, to secure our food supply, to improve our reading outcomes, and to build up critical infrastructure.

We have no time to waste. The need to act is now.

Recognizing the urgency of becoming self-sufficient while doing nothing about it is a contradiction we can no longer afford.

Mike Dunleavy is the 12th Governor of Alaska.