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Japanese Lawmakers Excited About Alaska Gasline Prospects

Members of Japan’s national Parliament today expressed keen interest in the energy which could be supplied by an Alaska natural gas pipeline leading to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, in a meeting with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye.

The national lawmakers quizzed Begich about how such a project to supply Japan with affordable gas could be financed, how the gas would be delivered to Japan and the barriers to building it.

“We would welcome Japanese investment in what would be North America’s largest construction project – an Alaska natural gas pipeline,” Begich told his counterparts from Japan’s national Diet. “Alaska has enjoyed commercial and cultural ties with Japan longer than any country and we’re eager to broaden those relations with a long-term, affordable energy source.”

The 10 Japanese lawmakers are in Washington as part of the U.S. Senate-Japan Interparliamentary Group, chaired by Inouye. The U.S. and Japanese lawmakers visit one another’s nations to exchange views on pressing trade and economic issues.

Begich opened his presentation to the Japanese officials by expressing condolences for last year’s deadly tsunami in Japan. He noted that a soccer ball from the hard-hit region just washed ashore in Alaska and is being returned to the Japanese student who lost it.

Begich noted that Alaska’s exports to Japan reached an all-time high of $4.2 billion in 2010, an increase of nearly 27 percent over the previous year. He praised Japan’s role as the state’s leading trade partner for purchasing Alaska seafood, energy, minerals, forest products and other goods.

Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also expressed interest in Alaska gas for his state of Hawaii, where energy prices are among the highest in the nation.

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