Working together, we can reduce our costs, impact on environment

  • Thursday, November 29, 2012 3:28pm
  • News

Over the last several years I have quietly followed the debate over bringing natural gas to Homer and the more recently proposed Natural Gas Distribution System Special Assessment District. I have read and listened to many comments, attended the “City Neighborhood” meetings, and done some research to become more informed. I feel it is time to weigh in.

I have a strong environmental ethic and support the development of clean power like tidal or wind, but even these energy sources will have their own set of environmental and user conflicts. These sources will most likely focus on electric generation, and will likely not help us heat our homes in the foreseeable future. I believe we must take advantage of natural gas as a start to lower our carbon footprint and make living and running businesses in Homer more affordable.   

Natural gas is our cleanest fossil fuel. With respect to CO2 emissions, the Department of Energy data showed that natural gas emits approximately 25 percent less carbon emissions than oil, and more than 50 percent less than coal and wood ( Compared to oil, natural gas emits a fraction of pollutants that contribute to acid rain (80 percent less nitrogen oxides and 99.9 percent less sulfur dioxides).

The CO2 impacts of heating with wood and natural gas are mitigated further by the fact that we have local sources. In contrast, the full environmental impact of oil is underestimated when considering the major refining required for oil and the fact that it is transported many thousands of miles before it reaches Alaska.  

The economic benefits of heating with natural gas are substantial. Natural gas is currently about a third of the cost of heating with oil. The city of Homer has done an exemplary job with the difficult task of estimating the cost of converting to natural gas, and objectively presenting the pros and cons of an assessment district.  Factoring in users’ contribution to a city-wide distribution system, connecting to the feeder lines, and the cost of conversion to natural gas, most Homer residents will probably fully amortize conversion costs in 2 to 4 years.  Even with 13 percent recent natural gas cost adjustment reported in the Nov. 25th Anchorage Daily News, natural gas is 35 percent the cost of heating with oil.  

Whether or not the proposed distribution system is passed, natural gas is coming to Homer.  The choice seems to be whether we work alone or neighborhood groups to negotiate with Enstar for hookup, or work together as a city? Do we pursue a system for the whole city or — like the water and sewer — only provide the benefits to the downtown, more densely developed areas?  Certainly there will be cost efficiencies in doing the whole city at once.  

I live in one of the more dense downtown areas, and conceivably might get less expensive hookup without the distribution system, but nevertheless support a city-wide distribution system for the benefit of the city as a whole.  

As a community, I think we sometimes fail to see the big picture. Operational cost savings to our hospital, school system and city government are huge. While limited improvement districts may never be completely “fair” to everyone, I offer that it is a good compromise and our best option for a city-wide distribution.  

Finally, I applaud the Homer City Council for looking after the interests of all its residents. This is an opportunity for us to work together, decrease our cost of living, and substantially lower our carbon footprint.       

Glenn Seaman has lived in Homer since 1999. As a biologist, he worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 28 years, culminating in an effort to design and develop a new Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, which is what brought him to Homer. After retiring from Fish and Game in 2003, he worked for NOAA as a Native liaison until 2009. He recently completed a master’s degree and currently is a consultant working with tribes on natural resource issues. 

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read