18 April 2007

The "Runnel"

Though this will likely come to naught, here's news that sends a frisson of excitement through some Western Alaskans:

Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow today. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.

This is an idea that has been tossed around before but the Russians seem pretty serious, though I note the costs are based on a "pre-feasibility" study and this could just be yet one more example of Russia beating its chest on the world stage.

Here's my favorite part:
"The project is a monster,'' Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist with Trust Investment Bank in Moscow, said in an interview. "The Chinese are crying out for our commodities and willing to finance the transport links, and we're sending oil to Alaska. What, Alaska doesn't have oil?''
This is one thing that will torpedo the idea.

The other is this: when the tunnel emerges from the Bering Strait on the Alaskan side, what infrastructure will it meet? I've been to both Diomede and Wales and I'm not sure they're quite primed for economic development. Nor is Nome, for that matter.

Still, it's fun to think about.

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