Murkowski: Alaska’s Natural Gas a Good Fit for Japan

Senator Visits with Japanese Prime Minister and Parliament Members to Discuss Exporting North Slope LNG to Replace Nuclear Generation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday continued her efforts to develop new markets for Alaska’s 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on the North Slope by raising the potential of providing a long-term, stable supply of energy to Japan with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a dinner hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Only two of Japan's 53 nuclear reactors remain in operation after last year’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The country has since turned to other energy sources, including coal, to replace its nuclear power generation. Japan is also looking at switching to imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power the country, but prices of available LNG are roughly five times higher than what U.S consumers are paying.

“Alaska’s gas is the perfect fit to meet Japan’s energy needs,” Murkowski said. “An LNG line from the North Slope could deliver long-term, stable energy supplies to Japan at a reasonable price. Such a project would be a win-win, both in terms of energy security and environmental policy for Alaska and Japan.”

Murkowski’s conversation with Prime Minister Noda follows a series of meetings she helped lead last week in Washington, D.C., with members of Japan’s Parliament. Murkowski, who is the vice-chair of the U.S. Japan Interparliamentary Group, discussed the benefits of Alaska natural gas to Japan with members of the Diet.

Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote President Obama on April 27, urging him to raise the issue of exporting Alaskan natural gas with the Prime Minister when they met. The White House on Tuesday confirmed that President Obama and the Prime Minister discussed strengthening energy cooperation, including expanding LNG exports to Japan.

Alaska has been sending natural gas to Japan for more than four decades, and the LNG from Cook Inlet is currently the only natural gas being exported from the U.S.

“Japan is hoping to switch a major portion of its power generation to natural gas, but it lacks an affordable and reliable source for that gas. That presents a unique opportunity for Alaska, which has long been rich in resources, but short on markets,” Murkowski said. “We need to move quickly to seize this opportunity and ensure that Alaska’s gas is the energy of choice for Japan.”

Alaska’s natural gas resources don’t present the same concerns and controversies that surround potential exports from the Lower 48. Because of Alaska’s geographic position and the glut of shale gas in the Lower 48, there’s currently limited U.S. demand for Alaska’s natural gas.

An LNG pipeline from the North Slope to tidewater would also deliver affordable natural gas to Fairbanks and communities in Southcentral Alaska.

Murkowski is scheduled to meet tomorrow the acting secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan to discuss the benefits Alaska’s North Slope natural gas could provide Japan.