Alaska Aims to Amp Up Natural Gas Exports to Japan
By Meg Handley
Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski will travel to Japan to discuss natural gas exports and nuclear energy with top government officials this week as the state looks at other markets for its huge supply of natural gas, a spokesman said Monday.
With the recent discovery of massive stores of shale gas in the lower 48 states and the consequent boom in production, the market in the U.S. for Alaskan natural gas has effectively been eliminated. The continent-wide glut has also depressed natural gas prices to the lowest levels in a decade.
But across the Pacific Ocean, a potentially lucrative market for Alaskan natural gas exists. Almost two years after the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi shuttered the island nation’s plans for the expansion of nuclear power, all but two of Japan’s reactors are offline, making the country’s need for alternative fuels greater than ever.
“They really have no other resource,” says Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski. “There’s interest [in Alaskan natural gas] but [the infrastructure isn't] built. Alaska is closer to Japan than the lower 48 states, so it makes sense to ship Alaska’s gas there.”
Alaska has a long history of exporting small amounts of natural gas to Japan, but the talks taking place this week will look at a bigger project, Dillon says, adding that Murkowski’s visit will focus on big-picture strategy.
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