Thursday, October 09, 2014

As Energy Boom Ends, a Political Identity Crisis in Alaska

By KIRK JOHNSON, NYT
OCT. 8, 2014

Economic anxiety amid a dwindling oil and gas industry is raising difficult questions about the future. It is also shaping a Senate race in which a Democrat is seeking re-election in a state long dominated by Republicans.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A gleaming $23 million complex of office buildings, dormitories and workshops has risen from the boreal forest just outside town over the last decade, aimed at training workers for a natural gas pipeline that was supposed to snake from the Arctic to serve energy markets around the world and make Alaska rich all over again.

But the pipeline was never built, the victim of a worldwide glut of natural gas that has reduced demand for Alaska’s supply. On a recent weekday afternoon, the meeting rooms and dorms were empty, with just one welding class breaking the silence on the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center Trust’s sprawling 63-acre campus.

To make matters worse, the government tax dollars that built and sustained the complex are also in danger, amid pressure to cut spending in both Juneau, the state capital, and Washington. Not surprisingly, fears over what comes next are rising for residents, who saw the training center as the embodiment of their hopes for high-paying pipeline jobs.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” said Jim Sampson, a former borough mayor and labor leader who is director of the training center. “You can feel it in the community and see it in the for-sale signs on the houses.”

(More here.)

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