Let's be clear here. What no one has explicitly begun to discuss is that the cost of living is spirally quickly upwards in rural Alaska. The fact that many rural Alaskans are eagerly accepting the gift and some people dissented from the decision to reject the Venezuelan fuel shows that this is a major issue of concern for a lot of people.
Businesses and people around the country are digging into their pockets to help four Alaska villages whose tribal leaders rejected a heating-fuel gift from the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a critic of President George Bush.
Donations, including a huge one from several fishing companies, have been so numerous there might be enough to replace the gift -- and then some.
Let's look at the energy policies of three actors:
- The state legislature cut state funding for fuel subsidy programs and failed to pass any measures this past session dealing with the promotion of alternative energy research (despite a couple of decent proposals from lawmakers of both parties). It spent all its time on a natural gas pipeline and oil tax, whose benefits are questionable and certainly won't be seen this winter.
- The federal government is completely ignoring energy as an issue altogether, with the exception of an additional 1.5 million for LIHEAP.
- Venezuela is giving 100 gallons of heating fuel to each home.
This would be an ideal opportunity to be begin/continue a discussion on energy in rural Alaska and the viability of alternative sources of energy. Wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc. all have significant practical obstacles but that doesn't mean any of them should not be considered at all. And yet everyone - Venezuelan and American alike - prefers to demagogue on the issue instead. Maybe we could talk about solving a problem here, rather than using it as another opportunity to confirm the validity of our position.
UPDATE: But two leaders in the Bering Strait region aren't so concerned.