Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What Happens at Energy Council? Here's Rep. Berta Gardner's Take

About 28 Alaskan legislators went to DC for the "Energy Council" Conference in Washington DC last week. I did a short post on this last week, but most information I could find seemed to be the same descriptions being quoted and requoted. I couldn't find an "Energy Council" website. I did find PNWER - Pacific Northwest Economic Region but I couldn't find any clear links between it and the Energy Conference. I mention this because Rep. Gardner mentioned PNWER as the sponsor. Their site presents them as a non-partisan coalition of states and provinces, not as an industry backed organization.

But Gardner did say the conference is a conservative, pro-development organization and that she was disappointed at the 'gratuitous attacks' on the Obama administration. It's not clear to me at all who organized and paid for the conference, but the Alaska legislators who went used state money to go. Gardner said (not on the video) that the House Minority decides how its travel money is spent.

A key point Gardner made was that they did a lot more than energy issues while in DC.  They took advantage of the trip to talk to national level legislators about a myriad of issues important to Alaska.  You can hear her take on the conference in the video tape below.  It's about ten minutes long so I've taken advantage of Viddler's comments function to mark different topics.  There are little white dots on the blue play bar under the video.  If you put the cursor over the dots, you can see the topics I've marked.  (Actually, anyone can add a comment, so if anyone does, there will be more dots.)

I did ask, off camera, about legislators getting a slanted view since they are getting the story from one side. She said that can be a problem if legislators don't know enough about the topic or aren't critical. In one part of the video Gardner talks about shale gas in Pennsylvania and how much progress the industry has made on this. I wonder what she'd say about this if a more balanced presentation were made. (She does say air pollution is becoming a big problem with this technology.)

Others I've talked to question state money (they said tax payer money, but, of course, individuals do not pay state taxes in Alaska) going to send legislators to industry sponsored conferences like this. I see no problem if the same legislators also go to hear what the other side has to say. After all, we elect officials to become educated on the issues. If they aren't smart enough to get it, that's the fault of the voters, isn't it?

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