Friday, September 12, 2008

Dividend Day!

Ah, the day the State of Alaska pays us to live here. I mean, gives us our share of the oil and mineral rights we gave up to get the Pipeline built. It's a banner year. Not only did the dividends top $2000, but our elected officials tossed us each $1200 as an "Alaska Resource Rebate," designed to alleviate the energy cost crisis up here.

Sounds great, right? Go buy a car or something, right? Lots of Alaskans do, but we've decided that money's too tight to be frivolous with it.

First off, that's taxable income. We're a family of four - that means our taxable income just went up by $13,076. Ow. So some of it has been filed away for taxes. Another chunk we used to pay of some debt; some medical expenses that were living on a 0% credit card deal. And another chunk went directly to GVEA, our electrical co-op. Thanks to a "fuel surcharge" that's added to our electric bills up here to compensate for burning diesel to generate electricity, our electric bill is the biggest bill we have, shy of the mortgage. The credit card and GVEA payments will save us $300-$350 a month, until the GVEA money runs out.

It's silly, really. Alaska abounds in natural resources and the places, resources and means to generate all kinds of energy, but every time we try it's bound up somewhere on a federal level. Small villages have filed to build wind farms and hydroelectric plants only do discover the rights to think about developing their area have been leased to some company stateside who is doing nothing with it.

Sure, it's nice to get this big chunk of change every year, but a random sampling of people I know stateside shows that I'm paying at least twice as much as those people per kilowatt hour of electricity (and that's before the fuel surcharge). We have to use diesel to generate electricity and the vast majority of homes here are heated with fuel oil, because it took 30 years and Sarah Palin to give the finger to Big Oil and get us a natural gas line going. (And we might not see anything from that, the process has only begun.) Gasoline here is still $4.19 a gallon, despite having a refinery 15 miles away.

I'd happily trade my dividend for lower energy costs through local development of our own resources. Any day of the week.

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