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Episode 53: Alaska’s economic crystal ball

By KTVA Alaska 10:36 AM May 2, 2016

This week on Frontiers, we peer into Alaska’s economic crystal ball. Literally.

On a whim, I bought a crystal ball and asked people to hold it and tell me what they see in Alaska’s future. We got a lot of interesting answers. Maybe it was just the gimmick of using something like a crystal ball or maybe people are ready to give our state’s economic future some serious thought.

Some of this week’s highlights:

  • A look at eroding consumer confidence. It appears uncertainty over politics in Juneau and news about North Slope layoffs are having an impact.
  • Exxon’s Point Thomson. We sit down with ExxonMobil’s top guy in Alaska, Cory Quarles, to find out more about one of the richest and most challenging gas fields in the world. Quarles, who is Exxon’s Alaska production manager, also talks about a first for Point Thomson — the production of condensates, a liquid form of gas, similar to kerosene. Condensates are the first stage of working this field, considered the key to developing a major liquefied natural gas project.
  • ConocoPhillips’ CD-5 project. KTVA’s Eric Ruble takes us on a tour of the CD-5 pad in the Alpine field, where drilling continues to expand, despite low oil prices.
  • Our guest this week: Jonathan King, senior economist at Northern Economics. Jonathan will explain why our state is at an important economic crossroads.  Also, for more discussion about the connection between state government spending and the economy watch this web extra.

In this week’s show, we take a broad sweep of the economic landscape. We’ll look at both the bright spots, as well as the storm clouds gathering on the horizon — mainly the state’s $4 billion budget gap, caused by a drastic drop in oil revenues, which will continue to be a problem in the foreseeable future.

Bottom line: Alaska’s economy is much like a frontier. As a young state with some unique characteristics, such as our heavy reliance on oil revenues to pay for government, we have yet to figure out how to break the boom-bust cycles that have long been part of our history, even before statehood.

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