Selling ice to the Eskimos

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There is a classic scene in the Simpsons movie when Homer and his family—arriving in Alaska to hide out from the EPA after Homer slimes Springfield by dumping a container of pig dung into the local lake—pull up at a toll booth and immediately are handed a $1,000 share of Alaskan oil revenue.

The scene typifies the stereotype of Alaska as a state that sold its environmental soul to the oil industry in exchange for some ready cash. This stereotype recently has been reinforced by the renewed debate about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a move which apparently would be welcomed by Alaska’s representatives in Washington.

A quick glance at some news coming from the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., however, makes it clear that this perception is not necessarily reality. Here’s a sampling of the latest announcements from AEDC:

Alternative energy heats up Alaska

”The Alaska legislature recently created a $250 million, five-year renewable energy program. The Renewable Energy Alaska Project ranks the state second behind California among 16 states and the District of Columbia that put money toward renewable energy, said Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. The program’s goal is to offset fossil fuel used for power generation and includes a combination of wind power, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy projects. Additionally, state legislators approved $25 million to fund submarine cables that would connect a 50-megawatt wind power project on Fire Island, in Cook Inlet just off the shore of Anchorage’s airport. Developers of the Fire Island wind project say it can be doubled to 100 megawatts. The project could also provide a foundation for other wind projects that the developers are considering in the state’s Railbelt area.”

Anchorage energy projects cut costs

”The Municipality of Anchorage is stimulating new economic development by reducing waste and using recyclable commodities. Over the past two years, the city has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while reducing Anchorage’s contribution to global climate change. The city appointed a renewable resources coordinator and has implemented initiatives to replace Anchorage street lights with energy-saving, long-lasting LED (light-emitting diode) and induction lighting — saving an initial estimated $3 million in energy costs. Other initiatives include retrofitting City Hall for energy efficiency; installing a methane gas recovery system at the city landfill; and, encouraging new buildings to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The city is working with local architects and developers to introduce an ordinance making all city-owned buildings LEED certified, with development incentives for the private sector.”

So perhaps the stereotype of Alaska as an environmentally indifferent spigot for the nation’s oil supply is due for an overhaul.

To which we say (courtesy of Bart Simpson): ”Cowabunga!”

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