Friday, July 25, 2014

A couple of additional perspectives on the SB 21 debate ...

To finish out the picture -- among others, for reader Greg Kisor who is at work this week and unable to view the video -- here are links to two other, longer news articles discussing the debate.  The first is Alex DeMarban's piece in the Alaska Dispatch News:  "Overflow Anchorage crowd hears robust debate over oil taxes."  

The second is the piece done by what I personally consider the best pure (non-editorial) state politics reporter in Alaska right now (at least she's the one whose pieces I regularly go to if I want the "just the facts" version), Alex Gutierrez of the Alaska Public Radio Network:  "Oil Tax Heavyweights Spar At Packed Debate."  (To complete that picture I consider Amanda Coyne the best "color" reporter and Fairbanks News Miner politics reporter Matt Buxton's "twitter" feed the best short form reporting in the state right now).

Combined with Amanda Coyne's earlier color piece (eighth paragraph down) and KTUU's video report, these pieces provide a fairly accurate overview of the highlights of the debate.

While the pieces largely emphasize different points made during the debate, they both report on one aspect that help further define the audience for those not there.  Toward the end of both pieces they mention the crowd's response -- laughter -- when I gave a serious answer to an audience question of why the Vote No on 1 side was spending so much on advertising.  Combined with Amanda Coyne's earlier observation that the Vote Yes proponents largely relied on "one liners about getting ripped off by the oil companies, and it being our oil," the pieces help to paint the color of what some of the evening was like and why I likened it yesterday to an experience I once had before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

As a message I received after the debate from an SB 21 skeptic who advised he had become convinced of the merits and would Vote No said, "I think at the end they were just mad that you guys had the answers that they didn't think you'd have."

One other thing is worth mentioning before I close the book on the debate.  While I seldom read comments following the stories, I did yesterday to get a further sense of how some are thinking about Proposition 1.  While several were interesting, one stood out in particular both because it repeated a sentiment I have heard from others and because of what it says about the "information" some voters are relying on in preparing to vote on the issue.

The comment was in response to the KTUU piece, was from Facebook writer Denise Rader and argued as follows:
The value of Alaska's oil and gas can only increase given the fact that we are facing an ongoing war (13 yrs + now ) and instability in the Middle East. 
Just because the oil companies, their spokesperson, and some elected officials keep repeating the same misinformation using "the sky is falling" scare tactics about loosing jobs etc., doesn't make it true. The sooner Alaskans accept the reality that the oil companies primary concern is to make money for themselves and their shareholders, then maybe common sense will prevail.

Oil and gas are Alaska's non-renewable resources. They shouldn't be depleted without Alaska getting a fair share. Vote Yes, to repeal the giveaway.
The irony?  Unlike Rader's presumably (in her mind) accurate "information" (as opposed to the "oil companies ... misinformation"), the futures markets currently are telling us that oil prices are headed down in the long-term, not up.  As of yesterday -- when she posted the comment -- the futures prices for December of each of the the following years were as follows (despite the current "instability in the Middle East"):

Source:  WTI, Brent (for those unfamiliar with futures prices, these are stated in then-year dollars, i.e., "I commit to deliver to you the contracted for quantities on the stated date for the stated price").  Some reasons for that are suggested by a relatively recent EIA report, including anticipated continued increases in U.S. production to offset anticipated declines elsewhere.

At those lower price levels, SB 21 is likely to produce more revenue to the state, even if the change results in no more production than otherwise would have occurred under ACES.

Some voters' perceptions aside, legislators made an informed decision when they decided to shift the state's tax structure from ACES to SB 21.  As I said at the debate, Alaska's long term economic interests are better protected by SB 21 than ACES.  Before the vote, I hope that Alaskans strive to inform themselves with accurate information, not the "misinformation" some of them are feeding themselves.  If they don't they likely are going to make the wrong choice, even from their own "Its our oil" perspective.