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Senate Finance Committee To Focus on Alaska’s High Energy Prices

Committee to Retain Experts to Recommend Solutions to Skyrocketing Costs

The Senate Finance Committee agreed April 27 to spend up to $150,000 to hire experts to recommend ways to contain and reverse Alaska’s skyrocketing energy costs.  Following the Senate’s adjournment April 26, the committee held a special meeting to hear a proposal by Senator Bill Wielechowski to investigate steps to lower energy costs for Alaskans.

“Oil prices are reaching near record levels,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage).  “While this is good for the state treasury, it’s disastrous for the average Alaskan.   Prices at the pump are soaring, and the cost of heating fuel, particularly in rural areas, is crippling families and businesses.  The situation is untenable.” 

Alaska ranks first among the 50 states in terms of its energy consumption per capita.  Unfortunately, the prices Alaskans pay for energy are among the highest in the nation.  The mean price for gasoline far exceeds the national average, with some communities paying up to $10/gallon.   Alaskans pay 50% more for electricity than the U.S. average, and heating fuel costs are nearly double the rate in the Lower 48.

To make matters worse, these costs are growing.  In 2000, low-income households in remote, rural communities spent 16% of their income on energy.  Over the last decade, this has grown to 47%. 

“We need to look for new ways to bring energy costs down for all Alaskans,” said Senator Lyman Hoffman (D- Bethel).  “In the past few years, we’ve invested in weatherization, renewable energy, home energy rebates, and low-income heating assistance.  But more must be done.  We must make energy affordable for all Alaskans.” 

Senator Joe Thomas (D- Fairbanks) will join Senators Hoffman and Wielechowski on a subcommittee to draft a request for proposals and select experts to advise the Senate. 

“Finding ways to lower energy costs is my top priority,” Senator Thomas said.  “Alaskans cannot enjoy a decent quality of life if they are struggling to heat their homes, and our businesses cannot compete and grow if they are burdened with oppressive energy costs.  There is no issue more important to our future than providing affordable and reliable energy.”

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