Rural Alaska Fuel Tanks: Fill ’em Up!

oilAlaska’s First Oil Refinery in Kenai

Apr 29, 2009

By now you’ve probably read that the Chinook (King) Salmon run is expected to be even worse in summer 2009 than it was in 2008.

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Chinook salmon returns in 2007 and 2008 were unexpectedly weak and ADF&G scientists believe the 2009 return will be below average or poor as well.  A small return of Chinook salmon will impose hardships on subsistence, commercial, personal use, and recreational harvesters, because of the central importance of Chinook salmon for both personal consumption and commercial harvest.

AKM sums it up as only she can over at the Mudflats so we won’t even take a shot at it here.

We watch as salmon fisheries are closed, and as residents worry they will not have enough food.  We watch as we put ourselves in danger of violating an international treaty.  We watch as private citizens try to organize food drives, and as the governor shows up with food provided by a religious organization, and a plate of cookies as a way to make this all better.

Limits on subsistence and commercial fishing will once again be imposed and it will difficult for our Neighbors to harvest enough salmon to store for winter and sell for cash to buy fuel. Sound Familiar?

Victoria did the best she could on our behalf at the bycatch meeting to prevent this but…

Maybe it’s time to turn our attention to the other cause of the crisis of 2008. The rivers froze before the tanks were full of fuel for the winter.

In a state that profits from favoring the oil industry over the environment, it is shameful that people are paying such high prices for fuel and that villages, such as Nunam Iqua, are running out cooking oil/heating fuel before the end of winter.

The rivers froze early – that was unexpected. They were expected to freeze at some point! Villages should be required to have their shipments delivered and their tanks full weeks before the earliest freeze recorded.

Any ideas how we can help get fuel to rural Alaska earlier and at lower prices? If there are as many boards and agencies involved in energy issues as there are in fishing issues, we got our work cut out!



8 Responses to “Rural Alaska Fuel Tanks: Fill ’em Up!”

  1. robrosenfeld Says:

    It wasn’t long ago that the President of Venezuala offered support to rural Alaskan villages because the state and the federal government were providing minimal supports.

    I was in Bolivia last month and went to a village 9km from what is said to be the 2nd largest oil field in South America. There was zero electricity in the village and a great deal of evidence of enviromental damage. Not one light bulb was powered in the community.

    Of course Alaska is an oil producing state. Has the state done enough to reduce the profits of the oil companies and afford more opportunity to the residents in the state? I would say NO WAY.

    President Evo Morales of Bolivia changed the arrangement with the oil companies in Bolivia. When he was elected the oil comanpies received 82% of the royalties and government received 18%. As soon as he was elected he changed this reality. Instead: the oil companies now receive 18% and the government receives 82% giving them the opportunity to assist the average Bolivian. Believe it or not all the oil companies stayed despite the fact their royalties dropped from 82% to 18%.

    I believe that the State of Alaska has given the oil companies too easy of a deal, which has minimized the profits that can be dispersed to communities in need and to drive fuel costs down.

  2. robrosenfeld Says:

    If the reality is going to change with the oil companies in Alaska we will need an elected leader who is not literally in bed with the oil companies.

    Governor Palin’s is married to a man who has worked for the oil companies for years. He stepped down from the job during his campaign for appearance. Once she won – Todd Palin went back to work for the oil companies. Bob Poe’s wife is Terzah Tippin Poe who works for Shell oil for the record.

    We need to elect leaders that can operate at arms length from the oil companies so we can truly negotiate the best arrangement for Alaskans and all Americans.

  3. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    I do not know much about this important topic,but I appreciate your comments,Rob Rosenfeld.On a sour note it seems that all too often the government programs get all tied up in the bureacrocy and it seems hard to decide how to help appropriately. Of course the villages need infrastructure. .. & then that facilitates development;more change, environmental concerns etc.
    I am writing from a relatively undeveloped area in a very popular part of Florida. Individuals with acreage cannot cut certain trees,while developers cut away….most people do not even know what the natural condition is here. I would hate to see rural Alaska go down this path.(Not wanting to re visit “trees of rural Alaska”)
    I would love to see more jobs, better schools,a higher standard of living while maintaining the environment and preserving the culture. I fear that the traditions of everyone in the USA will be sold out for a Happy Meal at McD.’s.

  4. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    To continue: Rob Rosenfeld, Is there a way to bring in money(such as you mention above) and all the good things it buys and control development and it’s impact on the environment so rural Alaska does not suffer the same fate as the rest of our fair country?

  5. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Secret Talker,

    We’re living with the results of rampant development in Miami. Big houses on tiny lots built of toxic drywall from China – thousands of them. So many that we now have to ration water.

    People used to build houses that caught the prevailing winds and there was no need for air conditioning. Now most air conditioners run year round.


    The buildings we see in photos of Nunam Iqua are build above ground. I realize that snow is an issue but is anyone trying to use the design principles of the igloo to build structures that use the snow and the frozen ground as insulation?

    This is off topic but do they teach Native history in public schools. When I was in school we had a unit on Florida.

    Also, are your ballots in Native languages? Ours are in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.


  6. anonymousbloggers Says:


    I also want to thank you for responding here – I’m not surprised though. When I read about your candidacy, I messaged you through Facebook inviting you to contribute not really expecting a reply. A stranger from Miami?

    A few hours later you friended me FROM BOLIVIA!

    Just thought folks should know that about you.


  7. Rob Rosenfeld Says:

    Thank you for all the well thought out comments and for you kind words Jane. I am in Vancouver, British Colombia at the moment returning from assisting the First Nations in the Yukon Territory with environmental protection issues on the Yukon River. I will respond in more detail in the next day or so.

    The short answer for a few of the questions is: There is no quick fix solution. A few things are needed:

    1) Strategic Planning in communities that involves Municipalities, Tribes, corporations and the average individual. Strategic planning is ongoing and needs to be driven by local people to have a sustained result.

    2) Multi community planning can be key to solving regional problems by encouraging communities to work together on economic development, fuel delivery and other matters.

    3) National awareness. This group is contibuting to this and more can be done. We need to put the phrase “Appalachia of the North” out there in order to get necessary supports from the federal government.

    4) Learn from the hundreds of mistakes of the development industry in Africa, Asia and South America. Development has often been top down and has failed in many places because the wrong people were driving the process with hidden agendas.

    5) Adding value to all products that are removed from Alaska is also very important. We sell trees, chips, and more that goes to Asia and comes back to us in the form of cheap furniture that we buy at Fred Meyer
    The state can offer incentives for business start ups that provide 10 or more jobs and that add value to Alaskan products. Value can be added to the fish industry by smoking fish and preparing the fish products in different ways. We can even make dog food and cat food with some of the lower quality by-catch if necessary.

    6) Check out the Denali Commission. Senator Stevens convinced Congress of the substandard living conditions in rural Alaska with regards to sewer, water and high energy costs. The Denali Commisssion has received about 300 million per year and guess what? The development mistakes that I have spoken of have been repeated. The Denali Commission focused on building huge bulk fuel farms and health clinics that no one can afford to heat. Money was used to build sewage systems.
    High cost systems were built and about 25% have failed because they are not arctic appropriate and there was no operating and maintenence costs built in. This money could have been spent on appropriate technologies and engaging folks in planning and determining their own future.

    Read the books, Small is Beautiful by Shumacker (sp), Rural Development by Robert Chambers, and Getting ot the 21st Century by David Korten. After reading these books you will have a clear idea of how to support community driven – rural development solutions. A collective vision that improves lives is possible when we stop lining the pockets of big time contractors and work direclty with the people at the grassroots.

  8. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    Thank you for your reply and helpful educational references.I know in advance I will probably like Small is Beautiful-which I favor ever since elementary school in a small & cool school.

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