Economics, Outdoors, Science


This is the first of five articles about the challenges and changes that are likely headed our way in the next fifty years. It’s also about what the people of Seward want their community to be in fifty years, and how do we get there. Readers are invited to respond with their ideas and comments.

The main challenge will be building a sustainable economy that can provide income, energy, food, entertainment, transportation and recreation for its citizens for the long term. For example see Wikipedia for “Sustainable Community”

Given the fragility of today’s, and probably the future’s, world economy and supply/afford ability of carbon fuels, the first of concern should be reducing Seward’s carbon footprint. Some options here are heat pumps, fuel cells, hydro, solar, wind and tidal.

From a cost / benefit perspective, sea source heat pumps, such as the Alaska SeaLife Center’s, deserves a good look. This is an ambitious installation which, when fully integrated, will supply 60% of the SeaLife’s energy needs, the rest of the facility energy coming from electricity. Before the heat pumps,  SeaLife  was using 132,000 gallons of oil per year. After the heat pumps are fully integrated, oil usage will drop to zero. So no more oil at 4-5  dollars per gallon at half mil per year.


But sea source heat pumps are expensive,  complex and to benefit the community there will be substantial infrastructure distribution costs. If this is where the community wants to go, it needs to start planning and drumming up funds now. Heat pumps don’t just show up on the back of a truck, like an oil furnace. There’s a lot of homework to do.

Another possibility is to use a central heat pump to generate hydrogen from sea water and then distribute this to fuel cells in individual homes. This technology is still a bit sketchy but probably workable.

Another point to consider is whether it might be feasible to install a very large heat-pump to service this half of the Kenai Peninsula since we have the seawater source.

So the question is, what steps should we be taking now to make Seward as energy sufficient by 2050?



  1. While the carbon footprint issue is important, the lack of other replacement sources of the level of expected energy that big oil and coal have provided over most of the years of the Industrial Revolution is at the heart of the main problem.

    Conservation is a good way to stretch the carbon resource more years, but there is a general unwillingness of some to even accept the need to drive slow or turn down their furnace thermostat; or buy wisely to recognize how industry needs fossil fuel at virtually every step. This includes the entire chain of food production, from insecticide and fertilizer, to all other aspects of processing and delivery to wholesale warehouses and retail customers.

    The unsavory topic behind a pressing reality of conservation and adequate new replacements to cut back on oil and fossil fuel dependency rotate on a real premise that becomes more apparent every year. “Peak Oil” is among the top two or three issues of our time; another is “Over Population” since we as a specie are stripping the Earth of limited resources without a real Life plan.

    While this topic had been brought up at about the time when easy oil in large reservoirs were becoming harder to find, and costs to industry were rising while demand after WorldWar II was spiking; we now see a greater relevancy due to larger population countries gearing up to embrace an industrial base and expanding their vehicular dependence on fossil fuel based transport. And other lands have found fossil fuels help keep their ruling party in power over their primitive resident population, when the dictator’s family can sell the oil.

    Geo-politics and resource-driven potential for conflict are fair reasons to make places like Alaska more energy efficient and less dependent on global markets. But the large corporate model is not in favor of helping produce low volume local use cleaner fossil fuel to keep Alaska and other regions afloat.

    Resource extraction at a massive scale leaves little behind for future needs; while fueling a boom mentality that has proven to not be sustainable anywhere. So, while Alaska and other historically remote regions see exploitation on a grand scale into the future time when the resources will have been taken as a matter of wholesale extraction, our need will peak at about the time the resources have been taken away to fuel fleets of SUVs in warmer climates.

    We need to have alternatives to what may seem like expensive and modern day traditional fossil fuels; The time, not long ago, when heating oil was cheap enough to convert many local houses from wood or coal, gave an alternative that seemed almost endless; the arrival of automated heat sources allowed people to work away from their home or be away without tending a fire in winter, at about the time when more houses had indoor plumbing.

    While some scoff at how things have been going, it isn’t the argument of the newfound ‘conservative’ verses the newly invented ‘liberal’ at each others throat that will fix this issue; divide and conquer is the name of that game. Who has the most to gain by our wasted efforts fighting paper dragons?

    Politically, it has not been the large corporate model who kept the lights on; outside of company towns with the company owned stores, few corporate models in the Western society offered longterm infrastructure investments or any social improvements at all.

    Odd that in third-world countries, the corporate model most successful now is that of communist China; they get into those lands holding future economic tools & resources, and make deals that rival the shareholder’s stake in big oil or western industry. The long term deals keep vital and strategic materials flowing into their economy, while we rely on profit gouging robber barons.

    The time to rethink almost everything is well overdue. And do something better.

    ~ in a small town
    Kenai Mountains, AK

  2. Oh, so many issues to face in 50 years. How about, disaster planning in action. What is the earthquake and tsunami projections for another disaster within 50 years, and what is being done to mitigate loss of life and property damages from either disaster potential.