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Think for Yourself. Question Authority.


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There are days when I am just stunned by the beauty of this place. Mornings when I have to stop mid-commute to just soak in the views. Those mornings when the Alaska range is shining across the inlet and the fireweed makes the air fragrant making me forget that winter is always just around the corner here. And days like this are so full of beauty that can’t be captured on film. Or at least can’t be captured with my woefully inadequate equipment and skills.

For some reason when I think about the beauty of this place I end up feeling quite conflicted. My life is made possible because of the resource development that has taken place here. Both from an employment perspective as well as in more tangible way — bike paths, roads, malls, houses. All these things are here due to the fact that the oil fields, mines, and timber industry are running. The very things that can, and often do, destroy the natural beauty of a place are also the things that have spurred the development that allows for a comfortable life in this most beautiful land.

Day in and day out I go to work in a large tower office building that just happens to house a large oil company. This has brought me all manner of consternation about my personal ethics in relation to my need to provide for my family.

Generally it is quite easy to strike a balance. The work I do is with people. Good people who are excited about the work that they do. I don’t have a direct impact on whether or not oil is brought out of the ground. I could quit today and nothing would change. And I’m okay with that. I focus on helping people do the best work that they can, help ensure that the tools they use to do the job work properly and that they know how to use them in the hopes that my input can help to make the company and the industry just a touch better in the end.

But there are times when it is terribly difficult for me to face coming into the office. Particularly around election time when there are major oil-centric bills in play.

I’m not terribly schooled on state politics. I’ve become a touch too cynical for my own good in this realm and, thus, try to avoid it as much as possible.

But when you work at an oil company and the stakes are high it is impossible to avoid it.

Disclaimer: I don’t know all of the ins and outs of Senate Bill 21, ACES, or any other tax regime.

What I do know is this: A company is not going to expend vast amounts of time, money, and effort to get their message out (No on 1) unless there is something in it for them. And that is their right — to look out for their best interests as a company and for their shareholders.

However, it is foolish to think for a moment that the current tax structure really benefits anyone other than the oil companies and those who helped get the law passed in the first place. And the myth that is being sold that so many new projects and new hires have come to fruition since the passing of SB21 is just that — a myth.  We all know that projects in large corporations don’t happen over night. A big project can take years before it even receives the budget and approval to move forward. Factor into that the fact that the oil companies appeared to use the specter of projects not starting or being abandoned as a way of getting SB21 passed originally and, well, my cynicism doesn’t seem so off base.

The propaganda that oil company employees are bombarded with each day is just astounding. These are the people who have the closest ear to the ground and if they get confused due to the amount of static being put out by the oil companies. How is the average person supposed to decide what option is the best for their own interests as well as those of the state as a whole?

I don’t know. I don’t want to jump on any bandwagon and scream vote yes or vote no. Like I said, I’m not informed enough to do that. What I’d like to suggest is that in the days running up to the election that we all take some time to educate ourselves, really educate ourselves about the issues before casting a vote we can’t take back; before casting a vote that degrades the beauty of this place in an irreparable way.


Read more from Phil B. on his blog, Multimodal Alaska Adventures.