Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:04 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Parnell says overseas trip drives home importance of energy independence

By Becky Bohrer
The Associated Press

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell returned home earlier this week after his first state-sponsored trip overseas that included time in several European countries and Israel.

Parnell said in a phone interview that the trip helped him see the importance of energy independence for economic and security reasons, and the possibility of opening new markets for trade with Alaska.

During his more than two weeks away, Parnell promoted Alaska seafood in London and sat down with leaders of three energy companies now doing business in the state — BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Eni SpA.

In Israel, Parnell said he was struck by Port of Haifa, where operations moved efficiently despite extensive security, and by the nation's trauma care systems. Both, he said, could hold lessons for Alaska. The Anchorage Port accepts most of the state's cargo.

The governor said he stressed the state's commitment to renewable energy while meeting with leaders of Ormat Technologies Inc. A subsidiary of Ormat is involved in the Mount Spurr geothermal project in Alaska.

Parnell also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Parnell said his trip to Israel came at the invitation of the Israeli government, which also has reached out to other state and federal leaders from the United States. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also attended the meeting with Peres, as did the wives of the two governors.

It was the latest in a series of trips that Parnell or other members of his administration have taken, both stateside and abroad, to tout Alaska's development and investment potential. Before leaving at the end of last month, Parnell said he would go wherever Alaskans can be benefited.

One thing he said he kept hearing was the importance of energy security, and that reinforced his belief that Alaska could play in contributing to the United States being weaned from its reliance on foreign energy such as oil.

"Something that I think we should aspire to is being independent as a state, from an energy standpoint, and being independent as a country," he said.

Parnell said coalitions must work together to promote responsible oil and gas development at home, and show that the lack of energy security — with the potential for political upheaval and disruptions overseas — can affect people in many ways, including high energy costs.

He said the debt crisis in Europe also stood out, and that could affect some Alaska exports such as seafood. While European countries remain important trading partners, Parnell said he also sees significant opportunities in the Pacific Rim region, a part of the world where members of his administration recently have spent time.

Parnell recently called on the major North Slope players — Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP — to get behind a natural gas pipeline project to speed the export of liquefied natural gas exports to the Pacific Rim.