Black Blood: Reckoning with Alaska’s Oil Dependency


Kengo 8

bikeriderlondon |

by Kengo Nagaoka
WRIT 1733: Honors Writing | Professor Doug Hesse

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is the aorta of the state of Alaska. Eight hundred miles long and 48 inches wide, the steel artery stretches from the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay on the northernmost edge of the state down to the Valdez Marine Terminal on the southern coast of Alaska’s mainland. Inside, the pipeline’s thick black blood courses steadily southward, taking two weeks to travel from the Beaufort Sea to Prince William Sound, where it is piped into huge tankers and shipped to refineries on America’s west coast. Twelve pump stations, the “hearts,” push the blood as it crosses 34 major rivers and three mountain ranges on the journey through icy tundra, boreal forest, and temperate rainforest.1

The oil keeps Alaska alive, and Alaska loves it.

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Ann Glenn |

When I was a child, my parents would drive visitors 15 minutes from our home in Fairbanks to the pipeline. At this popular tourist spot, visitors would get out of the car and smile at the steel tube, read the placard about it, touch it, and take photos with it. It’s a monument, a place of pilgrimage, a living piece of Alaskan history. The pipeline gets its own section in all tourist pamphlets for Fairbanks.

There is little debate as to why it has so many fans. Completed in 1977 after three years of construction, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was, at the time, the largest privately funded construction project in the world. Vigorous development was triggered after drillers found one of the most promising oil reserves in North America below Alaska’s North Slope in 1967.2 Workers swarmed to Fairbanks, a strategic place at the middle of the pipeline’s route. The construction of the pipeline itself involved over 70,000 people in a state that only had 348,000 people at the start of 1974, transforming a struggling gold rush state into a modern economic and scientific powerhouse.3 For fiscal year (FY) 2015, the Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner estimated that about 75% of state general fund revenue would be from oil “production taxes, petroleum property taxes, corporate income taxes, and royalties.”4,5 On average, from FY 2005 to 2014, that figure has been 90%.6 This money fuels Alaska’s infrastructure, schools, transportation, health services, and universities.7 Thanks to oil revenue, my state is the only state in the Union that doesn’t have a state personal income tax or sales tax.8 Ever since oil started flowing through the pipeline, the economic activity and revenue generated by the oil industry has provided sustenance to Alaska, allowing us to enjoy modern middle-class living like the rest of the country. Alaska owes big time to its black gold.

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JLS Photography |

∗  ∗  ∗

It was 2010, and I was just about to cross the finish line of one of my cross-country ski races. I was a freshman in high school and was probably close to last place. As I panted and tried to squeeze the last drops of energy from my muscles, I looked up. Above the finish line was a broad white banner serenading my efforts. It read “Flint Hills Resources” in a tidy serif font.

Only years later would I learn that Flint Hills Resources owns a huge oil refinery east of Fairbanks and is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the largest petrochemicals corporation in the United States and the second largest private company in the country.9 But this kind of banner is not uncommon in Fairbanks. ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (the company that maintains Alaska’s pipeline), along with Flint Hills, are common names because we see them everywhere: on TV commercials, in the newspaper, on flyers for community events, on awards and scholarships, in the mail, and at sports games. In August 2010, I saw hundreds of people at our annual Tanana Valley State Fair sporting BP knapsacks passed out at the entrance gates, a mere month after the company’s Deepwater Horizon spill had finally been capped. BP’s yellow and green sunflower logo has become for me as recognizable as McDonald’s golden arches.

These logos meant nothing to me as a little kid growing up in Fairbanks. I was born there in 1996, in a town of about 32,000, to first-generation Japanese immigrant parents.10

Fairbanks does have a McDonald’s. It’s got several, actually. But the closest Target or Olive Garden is a 360-mile drive south to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. At first glance, you’d never guess that Fairbanks is an oil town. It’s a place that prides itself on family-owned roadside bagel stands and backyard gardens. Fairbanksans love their personal property, their snow machines, and their own opinions. We like to think of ourselves as independent. “I’ve always thought of Fairbanks as an island,” says my friend Dylan.11

I was naturally a pretty quiet kid. During my first year of preschool, I actually did not speak a word in class. My teacher was visibly excited when she recognized me, 13 years later, when I yelled out her order number at an ice cream place I was working at in town. I had become a much more vocal person in those years. By senior year, I was leading a small jazz ensemble that played professionally around town. Music turned into my greatest passion. Considering the size of the place, Fairbanks was a great town to develop my musicianship. The University of Alaska Fairbanks music program, Fairbanks Youth Orchestras, and organizations like the Fairbanks Concert Association fueled my desire to hear and play music. My teachers were phenomenal, encouraging me to get more involved and pursue music making opportunities around town and in the state, most of which were funded by sponsorships from oil companies. The local music scene itself was diverse and welcoming, and my parents told me to pursue what I enjoyed most. The skills I learned on the drum set in my high school jazz band eventually led me to earn a spot at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver (DU) as a Jazz Studies major in 2014.

∗  ∗  ∗

I was sitting with a friend at a restaurant near DU on May 1, 2015 when my phone buzzed with a text message.

“What is it?” my friend asked.

I stared at the phone.

“My high school jazz band just got cut.”

I had known that Alaska was facing budget problems. During my junior year of high school, I had testified in front of my school board, urging them to preserve the district’s music programs in the face of a shrinking budget. Every year, rumors went around about which teachers were going to get laid off and what government programs were going to be cut. It was always about reduction, never expansion. In April 2015, all public school music teachers, art teachers, and counselors in Fairbanks got a “doubtful status” notice in their mailbox. But it didn’t really hit home for me until my own high school jazz band was gone, just like that, because of budget constraints. I had been reassuring myself, until that point, that my hometown would be okay in the face of economic pressure. When something that had meant so much to me throughout my four years in high school was cut, I had to reexamine what was happening.

Government revenue and spending is complicated, but in this case, there was an overarching cause. I learned that the TAPS is suffering from severe low blood pressure. And the symptoms are showing up everywhere. Oil flow through the pipeline peaked on January 14, 1988 at 2.1 million barrels per day. Today, only about 560,000 barrels per day reach Valdez.12 Oil flow has slowed down so much that the time it takes for the liquid to travel from Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope to Valdez has almost tripled from 4.5 to 14 days.13 Pipeline engineers are trying to figure out how to deal with low oil flow, which has the risk, among other problems, of creating wax and ice buildup inside the pipeline. “We can’t tell you what the end date of the pipeline is. We believe we can operate down to 300,000 barrels a day, maybe less than that. But it’s going to take some significant investment,” explains Mike Joyner, Senior Vice President of Alyeska’s operation division.14

It’s not just because oil reserves at Prudhoe Bay are running out. Oil production has been declining for decades. State officials estimate there are about 5.16 billion barrels left for recovery under the North Slope, compared to 15 billion barrels already sent down the pipeline by 2006.15,16 Despite this fact, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the east and the National Petroleum Reserve on the west remain closed to development.17 With safety and environmental concerns driving more regulation of the oil industry, companies are finding it harder to obtain permits to develop existing infrastructure or to drill exploratory wells and more expensive to carry out business as usual. Demand for oil is also decreasing steadily because of greater energy efficiency and investment in renewables. In 2013, more megawatts of renewable energy capacity were added per year than oil, coal, and natural gas combined.18 But these factors only aggravate the most recent issue: oil prices that were at $110 per barrel in June 2014 have plummeted to around $60 per barrel in May 2015.19 The oil industry is in a bad place.

The trouble this is causing Alaska is immense. It doesn’t end with jazz band being cut. With 75% of state general fund revenue dependent on oil royalties in FY 2015, the Alaska State Legislative Finance Division estimates a deficit of $3.4 billion for this year.20 With current oil production, the Division’s budget director claims oil prices would have to be $130 a barrel to balance the current budget.21 Unable to pass a balanced budget for FY 2015, state legislators called two special sessions to confront the issue. Talks of tapping into the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Permanent Fund, the state’s savings accounts, have been circulating.22 Layoff notices were mailed to 10,000 government employees on June 1, as political gridlock resulting from budget debates brought the possibility of a government shutdown in July closer.23 “I’ve heard some grizzled Alaska political observers lament they haven’t seen it so bad since 1981. I’ve heard some say it’s never been this bad, ever,” State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins from southeast Alaska observes.24

On February 4, 2014, Flint Hills Resources, the same name I saw on the ski race banner years ago, announced it was going to close its refinery next to Fairbanks because of difficult economic conditions.25 For years, the refinery had been siphoning oil from the pipeline and producing gasoline, jet fuel, and heating fuel, as well as products such as asphalt, for local areas. The closure meant the loss of 80 high-paying jobs and the loss of the fourth largest taxpayer in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.26 It created an uncertain future for Fort Wainright and Eielson Air Force Base, both of which bring people and substantial business to Fairbanks but rely on cheap jet fuel produced at Flint Hills. The company isn’t the only one that’s downsizing in Alaska. In 2014, BP announced it would be laying off about 475 employees statewide, selling assets, and reducing its footprint in the state, as well as withdrawing its $20,000 sponsorship of Fairbanks’s Midnight Sun Festival, one of the town’s largest annual events.27 The downsizing also meant my good friend Dylan had to move out of state our senior year of high school. He had moved up to Alaska in 8th grade with his mother, who had a job with Koch Industries. “We tried to get our mom to jump ship with [Flint Hills] and go work at the refinery in Kenai for Tesoro so that we could stay in Alaska,” he told me. “But she said there wasn’t much of a prospect there…it was killer.”28

I was watching my town and my state face insurmountable economic pressures, and the effects were hitting closer and closer to home. Former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell stated simply, “We need more oil for that pipeline.”29

∗  ∗  ∗

Nagaoka 3

photo by Yong Jung Cho

On May 16, I stood in front of a Shell gas station a mile from DU holding up a big cardboard sign that said, “MORE OIL IS NOT THE ANSWER.” I was wearing my green “Alaska Grown” hoodie. About 15 others were with me: friends, environmentalists, social activists, hippies, and all of the above from my school. We fought to hold our signs against the wind and rain, signs that shouted: “HANDS OFF THE ARCTIC!”, “KILL THE DRILL!”, “SHELL NO!”, and “CLIMATE JUSTICE!” There was one that said bluntly, “POLAR BEARS.” It was rush hour. Some people stared silently or pretended not to see us. A middle finger was thrown our way. People filling their cars with gas behind us stared with open mouths and squinted eyes. But there also was the occasional loud honk, smiling old woman, or car full of screaming, supportive college kids our age.

One woman rolled down her window with a puzzled look.

My friend Nick Stubler yelled, “Shell is planning to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean!” She immediately punched her car horn.

“Are you really ‘Alaska Grown’?” The girl next to me pointed at my hoodie.

“Yeah,” I said. “This one hits pretty close to home for me.”

“Absolutely,” nodded a grizzled-looking man as he passed me on the sidewalk, pointing at my sign.

Sometimes I’m not always so sure. Along with Nick, I’m a part of the student group Divest DU. We’re working to get the university to stop investing its endowment in fossil fuel companies and re-invest in more sustainable energy initiatives. We’re part of the huge international divestment movement, made up of colleges, institutions, funds, and companies that have divested from fossil fuels or are trying to. That’s usually the three-sentence summary I give while tabling and talking to people about what we do. There’s a whole list of reasons we’re fighting for divestment: climate change, rising sea levels, environmental destruction, social justice, financial stability, the moral responsibility of universities, and more. The movement is built on the idea that through divestment, we can take away the social license of fossil fuel companies and stigmatize them as they continue to be the primary perpetrators of global climate change. As of September 2015, educational institutions, businesses, governments, and individuals have pledged to divest over $2.6 trillion from fossil fuels.30 Divest DU believes that the university should not be profiting from climate destruction. And since student scholarships come from income generated by investing the endowment, nor should we. It’s a cause I can say I truly believe in.

But always in the back of my mind is my hometown in Alaska, a state built on the world’s demand for oil and the presence of huge multinational corporations like BP, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil. It pains me to think that proposing fossil fuel divestment for the University of Alaska system would be preposterous. Always in the back of my mind is that broad white banner with “Flint Hills Resources” on it at the finish line. Always in the back of my mind are my jazz band and my high school, fueled by the state government’s oil revenue. When I visit the homepage of the Fairbanks Concert Association, which has brought hundreds of musicians and performers up to Fairbanks and has inspired me so much, I see ConocoPhillips, BP, Flint Hills, and Alyeska at the top of the sponsor list.31 I’ve personally received $20,480 from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which invests oil revenue for a profit that is distributed to all Alaska residents each year as a dividend. That’s $81,920 for my entire family of four since 2000, when we started getting the yearly check.32 I can never escape the fact that my life in Alaska was defined, directed, and funded by oil. I can’t say Alaska owes big time to oil without admitting I do too.

∗  ∗  ∗

The last time oil prices tanked, Fairbanks lost its downtown. The Polaris Building, the tallest building in Fairbanks, now stands still and empty in what was once the heart of the economic boom caused by the construction of the TAPS. Built in 1952, the Polaris Building used to house a thriving hotel and restaurant. It’s now home to black mold that creeps up its crumbling walls and moss an inch thick on its floors.33 The rest of downtown Fairbanks looks a bit better, but not by much. Old buildings not renovated since the 50s crowd the streets, and failed or failing businesses are a common sight. Tourists are everywhere, but not many Fairbanksans would say, “Let’s go have some fun downtown!” At night, the bright glow of yellowish-blue halogens light the streets, presumably to deter crime and help police spot drunks.

In early 1986, oil prices crashed. Even though world oil consumption was declining, in late 1985, Saudi Arabia aggressively started increasing production, and in response the rest of the OPEC countries did the same.34 Crude oil prices fell from $23 per barrel in December 1985 to less than $10 per barrel in July the next year (non-inflation adjusted).35 In Alaska, state general fund revenues were cut in half over two years, from $4.1 billion in 1984 to $2.1 billion in 1988.36 Nine out of 12 Alaskan banks failed, business and property values fell, and thousands of jobs were lost.37 Unemployment hit a high of 11.5%, and between 1986 and 1988, about 35,000 people left Alaska to find jobs elsewhere.38 That’s more people than the current population of the city of Fairbanks. In the decades following the crash, oil prices eventually recovered, and so did Alaska, but downtown Fairbanks was left a dead spot. These days, Alaska Governor Bill Walker cautions we need to be careful with the budget so that “we don’t create the tailspin we saw in the 80s.”39

I don’t want my high school, my house, or any building in Fairbanks to end up like the Polaris Building. Alaska is no stranger to boom-and-bust economic cycles. After all, modern Alaskan history starts with the discovery of gold in the territory and the huge influx of people and capital that followed. However, the State of Alaska House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy argues the recent budget crisis is not just another bout of the boom-and-bust cycle, but part of a larger trend of a widening fiscal gap that the state will have to face for decades to come.40 We desperately need some way to sustain Alaska.

Reduced to the simplest terms, there are two options: more oil or something else. The Arctic Ocean holds an estimated 34 billion barrels of crude oil that could be accessed by offshore drilling initiatives like Royal Dutch Shell’s, which I protested in May.41 In April 2015, both chambers of the Alaska State Legislature overwhelmingly approved a joint resolution urging Washington state officials to stop interfering with Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic. Simply building a port for Shell in Alaska would generate 500 to 700 jobs, they claimed.42 Additionally, ANWR and the National Petroleum Reserve, which sandwich Prudhoe Bay, could be opened for oil and natural gas development. These projects could fix the TAPS’s blood pressure problem.

But Alaska’s problem is not the issue of too little oil in the pipeline. It’s way bigger. It’s our complete dependency on the black blood that currently supports our entire economy. Encouraging more oil development will entrench us deeper in our oil dependence. It means giving oil prices a license to throw our state around. If Alaska keeps holding on to oil as its savior, it will follow oil on its path downward.

Fossil fuels are not our future. Alaska lives in a world where renewable energy development has already eclipsed fossil fuel energy, and activists and governments alike are halting the progress of oil, natural gas, and coal projects that aren’t already hindered by economic pressures. In 2012, scientists estimated we could release about 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere and stay within a “safe” level of global warming. And the world’s oil, natural gas, and coal companies own enough fossil fuels in reserves to release 2,795 gigatons of CO2 if they are allowed to continue their usual business.43 As we realize the effects of burning fossil fuel on our climate, we also need to realize that betting our livelihood on new oil exploration outside of Prudhoe Bay is like chaining ourselves to an already sinking ship. Shell’s license to drill in the Arctic may seem like a good chance to make the pipeline healthy again, but ultimately it will make it even more challenging to end our relationship with oil when we really need to.

“Unfortunately, there is no simple solution,” explains the State of Alaska House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy. “There is no single resource that can fill the huge role [oil] has played in funding state government.”44 Therefore, Alaska has to aggressively diversify its economy and revise its public and private tax structures to cope with this transition as soon as possible. Alaska has to heavily push economic development in its fisheries, mining operations, and tourism industry. We have to pursue projects that add value to already existing industries, like “fish processing plants, […] aluminum reduction, server farms, and dairy farming.”45 We need to create a profitable business environment that will appeal to non-fossil fuel companies. This means investing in infrastructure and transportation and “low-cost energy […] for the Interior and rural communities where economic activity is hamstrung by the cost of fuel.”46 The state will likely have to impose a personal income tax and sales tax for the first time in decades. According to rough estimates, we could add about $1.8 billion to general fund revenue with the steep rates of 5.6% for an income tax and 7% for a sales tax.47 We need to restructure tax law on oil, gas, coal, and mining so that more money stays in-state. Money from yearly revenues and Alaska’s reserves alike need to be used to transition the state to more sustainable industries.

But more than anything, we need ideas. Alaskans—from the women and men sitting in the state’s legislative chambers to high school freshmen in their Alaska Studies classes—need to initiate serious conversations about how our state will look in a post-fossil fuel world. “We can’t be complacent like the frog in the pot of boiling water,” says Scott Goldsmith, Professor of Economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “We need to jump out before it’s too late and become proactive in the creation of our own future.”48 This dialogue has already started, but it needs more momentum and participation. On June 5, Governor Walker and his cabinet hosted a weekend-long convention at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, called “Building a Sustainable Future: Conversations With Alaskans,” to address the state’s economic future. “Self-determination was at the heart of our quest for Statehood. Alaskans wanted to control the future of this state,” explained Walker in a Facebook post. “Once again, Alaska is at a decision point. With oil revenue alone unable to sustain us, how do we chart a new course?”49 The convention gathered more than 200 leaders from around the state to “empower participants” through education and conversation so they could “return home and host their own community discussions.50, 51

Governor Walker’s convention was a step forward in advancing calls to implement a state income tax and carefully use the Permanent Fund’s earning reserves to close the state’s fiscal gap. And there was a lot of hope contained in those three days. “The challenges are obvious. The opportunities might be less clear,” Walker stated. “The first opportunity I see is an opportunity to tap Alaskans’ collective wisdom and ingenuity.”52 He added, “Through teamwork and respect for the voices of all Alaskans, we can develop the best solutions.”53 This sentiment was echoed by others as well. “Alaskans are a resilient and resourceful people, and can rise to meet the challenge facing them in the twilight of oil’s dominance,” said the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.54 There was also a call for cooperation across political boundaries. “If there’s a lasting image to come out of this two days, it’s of Mr. Republican Jack Coghill and a liberal Democrat, Vic Fischer, coming arm in arm together,” said University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers, addressing two original Alaska Constitution authors who were in the audience.55

But behind this optimism is the reality that we have a lot of work to do to see the future we want for Alaska.

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Rose Ellet |

A few weeks ago, my friend Tristan Glowa, who works for the divestment campaign at Yale University, went to a Q&A session with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. He submitted a question about how Alaska should move forward in diversifying its economy in the face of the inevitable decline of fossil fuels. As Murkowski started reading Tristan’s question off the slip of paper, she paused and picked out another one from the pile. Meanwhile, bipartisan efforts in our state legislature push for more oil and gas development, with the topic of economic restructuring away from fossil fuels completely off the table. Our leaders are scared to confront this issue. Shifting this dialogue is the first step in many to achieving a sustainable Alaska.

Any transition away from oil will result in great personal sacrifices for all Alaskans. Goldsmith proposes that “the transition to a post-Prudhoe economy is the biggest challenge Alaska will face in the next 10 years.”56 Nothing will likely be able to provide the state government with as much revenue as oil. Therefore, the transition may mean more budget cuts, more loss of jobs, and more expensive living for the sake of a smaller, more sustainable Alaska. But I want the best possible long-term future for my state, and I don’t see more oil being part of the equation.

I am an environmentalist who was raised on oil money. But I’ve begun to realize that it’s useless to feel inhibited by the contradictions between my passion for climate justice and the benefits I’ve received from oil in Alaska. I feel frustration more than anything, and the need to take action immediately. My state was born out of oil development, but now it’s at the mercy of the oil industry. As my friend Tristan argues, “Just because the system I live in unavoidably relies on fossil fuels doesn’t mean that’s the future I am working to create.”57 We’re at a turning point in Alaska’s history where we need to make the extremely difficult decision to end our long relationship with the oil industry. I stand by what I wrote on the cardboard sign I held in front of the Shell gas station: “MORE OIL IS NOT THE ANSWER.”

Slowly, the tide is turning. A few months after our protest at the Shell station, the oil giant announced it would abandon Arctic drilling for “the foreseeable future.”58 And the amount of money that institutions around the world have committed to divest from fossil fuels in the fall of 2015—$2.6 trillion—is 50 times the amount pledged at the same time in 2014.59 Even my high school jazz band seems to have been resurrected for the time being because of the letters of support school administrators received from parents. These are victories, but there are many more battles to be won.

I’m envisioning a different future. I want a future where Fairbanks can be as independent as it wants to be, and where fairgoers don’t have the BP sunflower emblazoned on their backs. I want a future where the entire state isn’t thrown into crisis whenever the price of oil wavers. I want a future that’s not tied to a single commodity. I want our kids to be able to take classes without the fear that their teachers won’t be around anymore. I want future generations of Alaskans to applaud us for taking the first steps away from a failing industry and toward a sustainable state. I want Alaskans to be able to look at the black blood in our pipeline as history, not a lifeline.

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Sam Chadwick |

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The Trans-Alaska Pipeline used to be the aorta of the state of Alaska. Eight hundred miles long and 48 inches wide, the steel artery stretches from the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay on the northernmost edge of the state down to the Valdez Marine Terminal on the southern coast of Alaska’s mainland. Inside, there is nothing. My grandchildren run around the now-overgrown parking lot where my parents once took visitors to see the pipeline, knocking on the tube and smiling at the ringing, hollow sound that it makes.

Featured Image © Anita Ritenour |

It wasn’t until my first year at DU that I became very engaged in the issue of global climate change. Since I was little, I have always had an appreciation for nature and preserving the environments I was in. Throughout high school, I worked on recycling and air quality issues in my hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska. During my first year in college, I joined Divest DU, a student organization committed to combatting climate change by urging the university to divest, or withdraw investments, from fossil fuel stocks. The people I met through this organization educated me on the urgency and scale of climate change, its ties to social justice issues, and the inspiring ways in which people were coming together to fight what I believe is the most massive and overarching injustice of our generation.

But my mind always wandered back to Alaska, a place completely dependent on oil revenue…the home that I was born and raised in.

The basis for the structure of this essay came from a book we read in my Honors Writing course. In her book Full Body Burden, Kristen Iversen tells the story of the Rocky Flats Nuclear facility in Colorado while narrating her own childhood growing up beside the plant. Eventually, these threads coalesce into a single story. We read this book around the same time I started to hear about a serious budget shortfall that Alaska was facing the coming year due to low oil prices. Memories about my interactions with oil money growing up in Alaska flooded me. I decided to use a similar structure as Full Body Burden to bring together the two stories I wanted to tell.

Nagaoka bio
Kengo Nagaoka is a second-year Jazz Studies major at the Lamont School of Music and a Leadership Studies minor with the Pioneer Leadership Program. Kengo was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, and spends most of his free time playing drums, writing music, and exploring outside. One of his favorite things to do is to get dusty with his suite-mates.


1 Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. “Trans Alaska Pipeline System: The Facts.” Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, 2013. PDF file.

2 Alaska History and Cultural Studies. Modern Alaska: Oil Discovery and Development in Alaska. Alaska Humanities Forum, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

3 The State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Research and Analysis Section. “Annual Components of Population Change for Alaska, 1945 to 2014.” The State of Alaska, 2014. Microsoft Excel file.

4 The State of Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner’s Office. “Spring 2015 Forecast Adjusts Revenue to Reflect Lower Oil Prices.” The State of Alaska Department of Revenue, 3 April 2015. PDF file.

5 The State of Alaska House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy. Understanding Alaska’s Revenue. Understanding Alaska’s Budget, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

6 Knapp, Gunnar. “The Most Important Things to Understand About Alaska’s Fiscal Situation.” University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, Jan. 2015. PDF file.

7 The State of Alaska House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy. Understanding Alaska’s Spending. Understanding Alaska’s Budget, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

8 State of Alaska, House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy. Understanding Alaska’s Revenue.

9 Murphy, Andrea. “America’s Largest Private Companies 2014.” Forbes, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.

10 The State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Research & Analysis Section. Alaska Local and Regional Information. Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Research, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

11 Smock, Dylan. Personal interview. 17 May 2015.

12 ConocoPhillips Alaska. Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). ConocoPhillips Company, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

13 Murphy, Kim. “ALASKA OIL: Flow Has Slowed Through Pipeline.” Sunday Gazette [Charleston, WV], 15 Aug. 2010. ProQuest. Web. 26 May 2015.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. “Trans Alaska Pipeline System.”

17 Murphy, K. “ALASKA OIL.”

18 Randall, Tom. “Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables: This is the Beginning of the End.” Bloomberg Business, 14 April 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

19 Nasdaq. Crude Oil: WTI (NYMEX) Price. Barchart Market Data Solutions, 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

20 Knapp. “The Most Important Things.”

21 Associated Press. “By the Numbers: Alaska Budget Debate, Attempts to Fix It.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 07 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

22 Forgey, Pat. “Is the Permanent Fund the Solution to Alaska’s Budget Gridlock?” Alaska Dispatch News, 20 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

23 Herz, Nathaniel. “House Bipartisan Budget Deal Appears to be Dead on Arrival in the Senate.” Alaska Dispatch News. 30 May 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

24 Kreiss-Tomkins, Jonathan. “Ugh.” [Email], 6 March 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

25 Cole, Dermot. “In a Blow to Fairbanks, Flint Hills Says It Will Close Down North Pole Refinery.” Alaska Dispatch News, 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.

26 Ibid.

27 Buxton, Matt. “BP No Longer Sponsoring Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 28 May 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

28 Smock. Personal interview.

29 Murphy. “ALASKA OIL.”

30 Visser, Nick. “The World Has Pledged To Divest $2.6 Trillion From Fossil Fuels.” Huffington Post, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

31 Fairbanks Concert Association. Sponsor List. Fairbanks Concert Association, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

32 The State of Alaska Department of Revenue Permanent Fund Dividend Division. Historical Summary of Dividend Applications and Payments. The State of Alaska, 31 December 2012. Web. 26 May 2015.

33 Caldwell, Suzanna. “Fairbanks’ Empty, Decaying Polaris Building Looking for Love.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 24 April 2011. Web. 26 May 2015.

34 US Energy Information Administration. Petroleum Chronology of Events 1970–2000. US Department of Energy, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

35 Ibid.

36 Alaska History and Cultural Studies, Modern Alaska.

37 Ibid.

38 Associated Press. “Alaska Faces Tough Decisions, Drastic Budget Cuts, Dipping into Savings as Oil Prices Plunge.” Fox Business, 18 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

39 Gutierrez, Alexandra. “Governor’s New Budget Cuts 300 State Employees.” Alaska Public Media, 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

40 The State of Alaska House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy. What is a Fiscal Gap? Understanding Alaska’s Budget, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

41 Fessler, David. “The Pros and Cons of Arctic Oil Drilling (And Why We Should Start Now).” Investment U [The Oxford Club], 15 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

42 The Office of Senator Giessel. “Legislature Urges Seattle to Stop Blocking Alaska’s Economic Development.” Alaska Senate Majority, 19 April 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

43 McKibben, Bill. “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Rolling Stone, 19 July 2012. Web. 26 May 2015.

44 House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy, What is a Fiscal Gap?

45 Goldsmith, Scott. “Alaska’s Petroleum Industry: Transformative, But is it Sustainable?” University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, April 2011. PDF file.

46 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial. “Population Wobble Worrisome: Decline Not Portent of Disaster, But State Needs to Pay Attention and Act.” Fairbanks Daily News Miner. 13 May 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

47 House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy, What is a Fiscal Gap?

48 Goldsmith. “Alaska’s Petroleum Industry.”

49 Walker, Bill. “Self-determination was at the heart of our quest for Statehood. Alaskans wanted to control the future of this state. Once again, Alaska is at a decision point. With oil revenue alone unable to sustain us, how do we chart a new course?” [Facebook post], 6 June 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

50 Cole, Dermot, and Nathaniel Herz. “Fairbanks Fiscal Cram Session Leads to New Focus on Revenue, Spending, Services.” Alaska Dispatch News. 7 June 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

51 The State of Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Building a Sustainable Future: Conversations with Alaskans. The State of Alaska, n.d. Web. 8 June 2015.

52 Walker, Bill. “Building a Sustainable Future.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 31 May 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

53 The State of Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Walker Kicks Off Dialogue On Fiscal Future. The State of Alaska, 4 June 2015. Web. 8 June 2015.

54 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial. “Population Wobble Worrisome.”

55 Cole & Herz. “Fairbanks Fiscal Cram Session.”

56 Goldsmith, Scott. “High Oil Prices Give Alaskans a Second Chance: How Will We Use this Opportunity?” University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, Sept. 2011. PDF file.

57 Glowa, Tristan. “So it’s pretty inarguable that we need to transition to a clean energy economy rapidly if we don’t want to be screwed by climate change. Obviously, as an Alaskan, I depend on oil given that it’s funded my life here. Just because the system I live in unavoidably relies on fossil fuels doesn’t mean that’s the future I am working to create (which is a question of political economy, not individual purchases). Does that make sense?” [Facebook comment], 20 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

58 Macalister, Terry. “Shell Abandons Alaska Arctic Drilling.” The Guardian, 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

59 Visser. “The World Has Pledged To Divest.”