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A standing room only crowd watched Senator Bill Wielechowski and long-time Alaska economist Gregg Erickson easily win the oil tax debate last night, hosted by Alaska Common Ground at the Wilda Marston Theatre in the Loussac Library.
Senator Wielechowski and Mr. Erickson repeatedly pointed out that under ACES, Alaska saw record oil investment, record numbers of oil jobs and a 383% increase in the number of oil companies doing business in Alaska. And oil company profits skyrocketed, with the industry making over $43 billion in profits, at rates of return of 123% at Prudhoe Bay.
Meanwhile, under SB 21, the “More Alaska Production Act”, Governor Parnell is now predicting, based on oil company data, that oil production will plummet 45% over the next decade, and revenue will also plunge, putting Alaska on a pathway to poverty.
Largely missing from Keithley and Marks’ presentations were facts, as they struggled to rebut any of the Vote Yes points. Wielechowski and Erickson came prepared and made point after point calling out the misrepresentations by the other side.
Chairman of Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway, and signer of the Alaska Constitution, Vic Fischer, also attended. “This is exactly the kind of thing we were trying to prevent,” says Fischer. “These companies are spending millions upon millions to convince Alaskans that they are getting a fair deal for their resource. But the people are being misled by an expensive, well-oiled ad campaign blasted through every medium possible.”
Wielechowski and Erickson focused on Alaska’s role as an “owner state”, a term coined by the late Governor Wally Hickel. “I think I felt Wally Hickel in the room last night,” said Malcolm Roberts who attended the debate. Long-time aide to Governor Hickel, Roberts has seen oil companies get their way in Alaska before. “No one is surprised the industry is fighting for as much profit as possible,” he noted “but it’s our job, and our Governor’s job, to fight for the maximum benefit of the people, for the use of OUR resources. We didn’t get that with SB21.
Oil companies continue to pour money into the No on 1 campaign, only increasing the amount Alaskans are hearing about the issue. “I think they’re seeing through it,” says Fischer. “People are paying attention now. And all they have to do it listen to the facts and it’ll be clear on August 19th: Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway”