Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Jonathan Wills, Part 2

This is a continuation of the interview with Jonathan Wills on October 21, 2013 by Alicia Zorzetto at the offices of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council in Anchorage, Alaska. Amanda Johnson operated the video camera. Scott Sterling also participated in the interview. In this second part of a three part interview, Jonathan and Scott talk about prevention of oil spills, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council as a model, and the relationship between the oil industry, government, and private citizens. Jonathan also presents Norway as a success story of how that country has handled the oil industry and oil wealth.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-06_PT.2

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Oct 21, 2013
Narrator(s): Jonathan Wills
Interviewer(s): Alicia Zorzetto
Videographer: Amanda Johnson
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Scott Sterling
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Resources Library & Information Services, Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council
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SCOTT STERLING: Dan -- one of the things he always impressed me -- impressed upon me really was to put your emphasis on best evidence. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: In order words, hold yourself to the highest possible standards of research inquiry, peer review, study.

But once you have it, you know, and you're sure you're right, then go ahead. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And don’t -- don’t be afraid to go ahead, because debating over fine points of science is one thing.

And methods and means and techniques. And it can get sophisticated and a little hard for a lay person to grasp from time to time.

But as Jonathan pointed out, if you are careful and hire advisors and consultants and scientists to help you who are honest and of good repute,

you will get quality evidence and you will be able to have objective facts and evidence on the table.

Then the debate will switch to what is the political dimension, what is the economic dimension, what is the dimension that we're going to talk about in terms of the future.

I think Alaska as much as, if maybe not a little more so than Shetland, we are democratic.

We're pretty transparent.

We have a system of laws, as imperfect as it may be, is still maybe better than all others.

JONATHAN WILLS: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: So -- JONATHAN WILLS: It's a little slow sometimes.

SCOTT STERLING: We're a little slow sometimes,

but I think that that matters a lot if you want, you know,

I was really appreciative of your mentioning let’s talk about the future and implications for the future.

I think that is extremely important.

Not that -- I mean we learn from the past, but we have to -- we should be planning for the future for the coming generations.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: We're at that stage now. The 25 years is kind of --

SCOTT STERLING: The 25 years is coming. I think that there's --

it's very important to understand what happened and why.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And it's very important to document history as it proceeds,

so that we can learn from it and also so that we know. So that --

because humans, we have to know things.

And I like the idea that there are histories available and that we are -- we have, you know, we lost a great leader in Stan.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah. SCOTT STERLING: A person whose personal repository was -- JONATHAN WILLS: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: -- immeasurable, but who also supported RCAC, the community of Valdez, the Prince William Sound as a whole,

because he loved it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yes.

SCOTT STERLING: And he knew of its importance as --

not just as an ecosystem which makes it sound a little -- ecosystem hardly begins to describe Prince William Sound and the places like it in the world.

And that's what I always try to remember is that you want for your children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy that Sound,

and see those creatures and hear and experience what it's like to be in the Sound,

while at the same time realizing that, you know, it's at the center of an industrial economy.

And it is quite a contrast sometimes in that.

JONATHAN WILLS: The same with us.

Now, the reason I’m visiting Alaska this time is to -- sad reason, to attend and speak at Stan Stephens’ memorial at the weekend.

And it was a fascinating event.

It was quite a joyous event, because we were celebrating rather --

we were grieving, but we were celebrating, as well, a remarkable person. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And I’m afraid you can have all the organizations and structures and constitutions you like, but it does come down to individuals like Stan.

And the trouble is in our present system you can get activist burnout. I know Stan often felt close to that.

People who give all their spare time -- Stan was still running a business while he was --

and he was often using his own money to go on trips.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: He was a volunteer for RCAC.

JONATHAN WILLS: He was a volunteer throughout -- never paid.

And people get burned out because they're up against -- say it in your presence, Scott, armies of lawyers.

The industry -- the finances of the industry -- the oil industry and also the mining industry are so gigantic. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: That they can afford to have three shifts a day, teams of lawyers and publicists.

And they can buy advertising. They can -- they can schmooze the politicians.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: They have enormous power.

And for the ordinary citizen like Stan was to get involved is very difficult.

I've known a lot of people who couldn’t take it, who just ducked out of the whole thing after a while. They were burned out.

And the attitude there sometimes is well I’ve done all I can. I can’t devote any more of my time to this.

We’ll just have to leave it, and if there's another catastrophe so be it.

What I've also learned is that the industry and government do not learn by the kind of forensic evidence that we were mentioning earlier on.

They tend to learn by catharsis.

You have a catastrophe and all of a sudden oh we can do this, we can do that, we can improve this, we can improve that and Congressman George Miller said --

a film I made after the Exxon Valdez, he said -- great line -- he said these people can do all this.

Where were you the morning before the Exxon Valdez? Where were you?

And of course, they weren’t doing it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And do you think they weren’t doing it because there wasn’t --

JONATHAN WILLS: Cheaper. It saves money.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. And there wasn’t an organization like RCAC in place that they --

JONATHAN WILLS: Exactly.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So RCAC in a way, with what I'm understanding from both of you is it provides a gateway and a voice for regular citizens

to have a say in the lands that they live in.

JONATHAN WILLS: That's right. Passive opinions listened to.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: But Rick [Steiner] and I and others for years since RCAC started up I think suggesting it --

we've suggested it in Sakhalin in Russia where we went to do a study.

We've suggested it in Mauritania, Western Africa.

And various other places and most recently in the Canary Islands where there's a big oil development likely to happen. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And it's resisted.

The industry through its pressure on governments all over the world resists having the kind of local involvement that we had in Shetland from 1972, ‘3 on

and the kind of citizens’ oversight that you have in Prince William Sound through RCAC from 1990 on.

But why are they still resisting this?

I'm not going to characterize them. I just ask the question. Why won't they see it's in their interests to have all these, you know, RCAC’s unpaid expertise.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Is it's -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: For the industry it's cheap peer review.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: You can believe what these people say, because nobody's paying them to say it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: So RCAC is, in fact, an enormous asset for the oil industry.

And people like Stan weren't anti-oil industry. On the contrary, they saw exactly the benefits that industry could bring through employment and revenues to Alaska and to Prince William Sound. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: They wanted to use those revenues to develop ecotourism.

Stan always thought that the industry and wildlife could coexist.

And it can. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: It didn’t.

And we ended up with Exxon Valdez. But there's nothing to stop it happening.

He and I -- we weren't greenies who want to stop using fossil fuels. We recognize that you can’t stop using fossil fuels overnight.

My boat -- I run a wildlife tourism business which was inspired by Stan. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: I've run it for the last 22 years.

I use 30 tons of diesel a year. Who am I to say stop using fossil fuels. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: Nobody's made a gas boat yet that I can afford or a hydrogen powered one or an electric one. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: So we're going to go on using this fossil fuel probably for at least 50 years, maybe longer.

And we have got to use it safely because the dangers of spilling it are so utterly catastrophic,

particularly as we move into arctic waters off northern Alaska and off northern Europe.

SCOTT STERLING: And I think the Gulf {of Mexico] spill recently --

JONATHAN WILLS: Oh.

SCOTT STERLING: Sort of documented a lot of -- the end result of technological failure can be so catastrophic so quickly. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: That's part of what makes any kind of energy and whether it's fossil fuel or nuclear -- any technological failure or mishap can be catastrophic really quickly.

And that it can hit you like a tsunami almost.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: And it -- while we plan for it and we seek to prevent it, let’s face it by the time we get around to responding we’re --

I mean I was -- happened to go with Stan [Stephens] and Dan [Lawn] and Rick [Steiner] to Shetland to be with Jonathan.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Dan, you mean Dan Lawn?

SCOTT STERLING: Dan Lawn to --

We went over as guests of the Shetland Islands Council to the Braer Spill.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And it was remarkable how the weather was such a big factor in that one as opposed to well, what we had experienced in Prince William Sound.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, they sprayed dispersant. It never really hit the sea.

SCOTT STERLING: And, I mean, the winds were (speaking over each other)

JONATHAN WILLS: And there were some places where it hit people on the shore, and it made them sick.

SCOTT STERLING: Right, right. It was persistent cyclonic winds.

And so people would say well do you have, you know, much to show. We had brought our videos and cameras and whatnot of the oil on the water

and in fact we did not because it was atomized by the force of nature.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, the sea churned it up.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Churned it.

JONATHAN WILLS: But thirty foot seas in a forty foot deep bay and it was just like an enormous washing machine or a cement mixer.

And the oil went into suspension and the tide carried it away and in three weeks you didn’t know there'd been any oil there. SCOTT STERLING: It was --

JONATHAN WILLS: Up in the bays, it went into the sediments.

It wrecked the salmon farming industry.

SCOTT STERLING: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: In part of Shetland. But --

SCOTT STERLING: It was lesson learned in several ways. Not only on the side of the maritime side and the maritime transport of oil, which is a very risky business and is hard to --

you have to be continually vigilant to keep it safe. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: But also that the X-factor of nature combining to --

in that case cause complete engine failure in a vessel swamped with green sea water.

JONATHAN WILLS: Well, actually the vessel was unseaworthy.

SCOTT STERLING: And she was unseaworthy, too.

JONATHAN WILLS: When she left Norway, her American owners thought (inaudible).

SCOTT STERLING: But -- and she was completely full of oil.

I guess my point about it is that I think --

I think it's really hard for people to be conscious of why cooperation and competition can sort of co-exist.

And why you can have arms length professional distaff relationships so that you can be able to analyze evidence objectively.

Have a debate and try and draw some conclusions that will form good public policy. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And good corporate citizenship, good community citizenship.

Vilifying each other never accomplishes anything and doesn’t make anything safer.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. And I think that's important, too.

It's really important to have the dialogue.

It's really important to have the relationships when as Jonathan mentions it gets resisted a lot. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: I've given some thought to how do you -- how do you get that resistance to soften and usually you try --

someone's opposing you, you try to get them to see -- look maybe if you would give some thought to some of what I'm saying,

maybe I could show you how this could actually help you or work for you.

No industry wants to spend money unnecessarily,

and will analyze any proposal that might cost money probably with a fair amount of hard nose economic rigor.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: I think all that's fine.

And I think that you should also rigorously analyze scientific evidence as well as economics,

but at some point I think the political decision must be made.

Are we going to anticipate risk and in anticipation of risk are we going to ask for input as much as possible.

And I was going to -- just one and I'll shut up, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No, no, no. That's what this is for.

SCOTT STERLING: The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities now uses a consultative community base model to reach out to communities whenever a project of some magnitude,

usually a rail transport, highway transport improvement, new highway, whatever it may be.

One's going on not far from where I live right now and I've been involved in it.

It is so much better than what it was 20 years ago. JONATHAN WILLS: Oh, yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: When basically the department would announce, well we're building the road through your backyard and lucky you, you know, and thank you so much.

Maybe you can open a store.

Now they’re -- what they do is they work on alternatives. They hold series of meetings.

They invite people to sit in on the consultations with the engineers and the planners and it's a completely different atmosphere.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, that's what happened with us for the new gas plant which is being built because our oil era is no more over than Alaska’s is.

Oil and gas is going to be in the Shetland Islands for at least another 50 years.

It's here to stay and we're going to have -- to have to tame it, I suppose.

Scott mentioned in passing the Macondo disaster in the Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico.

Here again we didn’t learn anything. It didn’t teach us any new lessons.

Everything that went wrong there --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Could have been avoided.

JONATHAN WILLS: Could have been avoided if they listened to the drillers.

You know, the drillers I know in the oil industry are some of the most conscientious skilled people I've ever met.

They don’t want blowouts and spills.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: We had one on the Elgin Field in the North Sea, a huge gas blowout.

Sorry, it was called a leak not a blowout. It's Total [French firm that owned the well].

The French for blowout is leak, apparently.

But, we learned from that and from Macondo that the issue is shoddy workmanship.

It was some bean counter in an office thousands of miles away putting pressure on a manager who's already under pressure, putting pressure on the drillers and the well engineers to not cement it properly.

To not wait long enough between processes.

I mean everybody who's ever drilled a well knows that that is a crazy way to proceed. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And which is why people are still in court. And will be for a while.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, but that -- that -- I mean, you know, it was tragic. People lost their lives.

JONATHAN WILLS: Absolutely.

SCOTT STERLING: People who were trying to do their jobs lost their lives because of these -- of these errors and oversights. And

I, you know, I was extremely upset by that. I thought that that was -- not to mention the damage to the earth and the sea but the people on shore, but the --

the fact that, you know --

JONATHAN WILLS: 11 people lost their lives.

SCOTT STERLING: 11 people lost their lives.

JONATHAN WILLS: Because of corner cutting.

SCOTT STERLING: Who were doing their jobs. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And who that would have been the very last thing any of them would have liked to have seen happen.

Not because of the danger to themselves alone, but because they know nothing of that magnitude or type that happens helps anyone.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: It does not do anything, except I think you're quite right.

It reminds us again there's not a lot new to learn.

JONATHAN WILLS: No. SCOTT STERLING: It is how well are we doing with what we do know.

JONATHAN WILLS: Right. Well, the Piper Alpha catastrophe in the North Sea the year before Exxon Valdez in ’88 -- 25 years ago this year.

The Piper Alpha was completely unnecessary.

And again it was because of corner cutting ordered by bosses thousands of miles away.

And that's why those wells blew and that blew up and it killed one hundred and -- more than 150 people.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you mentioned a lot of times with all these catastrophes that it could have been prevented -- it could have been prevented.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: And for me the question is --

I understand how wonderful a citizens’ group, but why can’t the government do the same thing as what a citizens’ group -- JONATHAN WILLS: Money

ALICIA ZORZETTO: In your opinion.

JONATHAN WILLS: Money.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You think it's money. JONATHAN WILLS: Money. Government's depend on oil revenues.

Not just state governments and local authorities like our case,

but in Britain we have probably the most favorable taxation regime for oil and gas companies in the world.

They're massively subsidized by all the taxpayers because of the breaks they get.

And it's still not enough. And they lobby governments. They have people permanently paid in the House of Commons and in the Ministries. They have people on secondment.

The old revolving door scenario that you're familiar with in the United States. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And fortunately we have a thing called the European Union.

We don’t have a United States of Europe, and some people don’t want it,

but the European Union is taking new initiatives to require greater safety procedures on the new deep water gas and oil fields west of the Shetland Islands out in the Atlantic -- on the edge of the Atlantic.

And that's being resisted by national governments.

The European Union is not beholden to the oil industry for its revenues. It's funded by the purchase tax -- VAT, Value Added Tax.

And the European Union is taking a super national approach and saying that if you're going to expand into these waters off Spain, off Ireland, off Scotland, the north of Shetland you are going to have to clean up your act.

And learning from Macondo, we want these assurances.

We want to know that if it does happen, you actually do have a thing like a dunce’s cap that can fit over the well and stop it -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh

JONATHAN WILLS: -- blowing. Because our nightmare in the cold stormy waters over a thousand feet deep west of the Shetland Islands is a seabed blowout.

A blowout on a rig or a platform is bad enough, but you can deal with that usually.

But if it's on the seabed it's incredibly -- it's months before you can drill a well to kill it.

It took long enough in the Gulf of Mexico in the lovely calm weather they had.

If it happens off Shetland, one that size, we are in for a big catastrophe because that stuff's going to go up under the arctic ice.

That's the way the currents go.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So it's interesting. You're saying that in Europe the EU has less --

is less influenced by the oil companies.

JONATHAN WILLS: It's becoming -- it's becoming more involved in regulation and governments that are I would say the pay of oil companies, but very dependent on them are resisting it.

The British government in particular has resisted the initiative from Europe.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: For the States -- for America, would you say there's more influence by the oil companies within the state of Alaska or federally?

JONATHAN WILLS: I just know what I read in the Anchorage Daily News.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Scott, do you have an opinion about that, as far as -- ?

SCOTT STERLING: I think that Alaska, of course, has a very close relationship with the oil industry in so many parts of our daily lives. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: Including that at the state government level. Yes, I think it's very important.

I think that there are many good people on both sides who try and keep it as safe as possible.

I think there are economic pressures that come to bear.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: And then it becomes a political decision by lawmakers as to what level of taxation they wish to see

versus what the industry wishes to see versus, you know, what do we think is best for our people.

And those decisions get made from time to time and you can have principled opposition on both sides, you know.

I do think that it's -- if you take it as a given that ordinary everyday people aren’t going to have a paid lobbyist. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: Advocating for their interests as a -- as a polity in the halls of power,

and that industry almost certainly does and will. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Then there's an imbalance of influence at work.

And that imbalance of influence is best counteracted by information sharing, transparency, and most important activism.

I think that when you have something on the model of a RCAC or similar body that gives communities and ordinary people a voice in the industry at the level where the impacts are felt most directly

than that at least may make up a little bit for the imbalance in influence that exists in the halls of power.

And I've always thought that that sometimes the successful person is the one who doesn’t -- who bends rather breaks when the strong wind comes, right?

Be a willow, not an oak

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: You know, find a way. Adapt. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I think that adapting to political reality whatever it may be, from -- you know, it always changes. It's always in flux,

but adapting to political reality when you know that the consequences of not having a voice, not being heard, not being the reminder against complacency, which I think our friends --

I think Stan would want us to say complacency is our chief enemy.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: Then work to find political solutions.

Realize that compromise is inherent to the American democracy and our -- and our political culture. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: But also understand that be clear eyed about what really happens.

You know, if you see a vote go a certain way, you know, are you going to say well, did the ordinary people of my community have a lobbyist there. Well, probably not, right?

But -- but by the same token don’t -- don’t get discouraged and say oh nothing can be done because that's not true either.

In fact, elections are held to -- to, you know, allow for change to occur. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I often think that -- I sort of take it as a given that people will always be advocating for their own interests whether in industry or elsewhere. JONATHAN WILLS: That’s certain.

SCOTT STERLING: Take that as a given. Don’t -- don’t sweat it, work with it. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And adapt to it and bring your own solutions to the table.

The -- the innovation that was represented by the formation of RCAC by --

by Jonathan and Rick and others was really a way of saying this is going to be a voice on the ground first and foremost.

And on the sea as opposed to, you know, in the halls of power.

Although I think that you should walk the halls of power and make sure that the evidence is known to those who do make -- sit in the seats of power.

But by the same token regardless of who sits in the seats of power if this works as it should -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: At its most effective, it should still do its job and prevent -- right?

I mean I know -- I know it sounds idealistic. I don’t mean to sound naïve.

JONATHAN WILLS: That's not idealistic at all. In Scotland, there is an official position and it's called the Queen’s Remembrancer, an historiograper royal.

And this is an academic, usually from the University of Edinburgh, whose job it is to keep Her Majesty informed if she's going to visit somewhere of what's the historical background.

To remind her. To be her remembrancer.

And it seems to me that that's one of the main functions of a citizens’ advisory council. Is to be a remembrancer.

SCOTT STERLING: I think we've created a new position.

JONATHAN WILLS: It's the peoples’ remembrancer. It's also thre remembrance for the state government, the feds, and for the oil industry.

SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: And because you can’t have a Remembrancer Royal here because you're a republic.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, we'll figure --

JONATHAN WILLS: That’s another whole (inaudible) to discuss later. SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: I want to go -- to talk about the money issue.

We all know Alaska's an oil state and it's notorious. Anyone who's read any Alaskan history knows that the oil industry has influence because of their lobbyists.

Who's looking at Norway, what happens there? Because Norway has a much better safety record. They've had their disasters like Alexander Kielland.

But Norway has -- it has much better labor relations in the oil industry. They're far higher pay.

The workers have rights, which were unthinkable in the British sector in the North Sea and probably the American.

And yet Norway has a very successful record. They have big public investment through shares in Statoil and Norsk Hydro, although those are mostly private companies now.

They have a gigantic permanent fund, a Sovereign Wealth Fund, which the new Norwegian government seems to turn into spent on tax breaks for the rich, but we won’t go there.

But Norway is the success story in environmental terms, in labor relations terms, and in redistributing the wealth because the, you know, the trickle down effect works in Norway.

It works because of the state fund so that, you know, oil funds are used to help struggling fishing villages in the arctic and marginal farmers.

And Norway's not in the European Union. It's a very interesting place, Norway.

On the other hand, nobody goes there to study it because if you want a pint of beer it'll cost you 10 pounds.

A bottle of wine 50.

SCOTT STERLING: But to underscore what Jonathan said there is Cliff Groh, Jr., who is an Anchorage well-known individual here in town and who is an attorney,

did write a paper on Norway and the comparisons between the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Alaska Permanent Fund.

JONATHAN WILLS: I didn’t know that. SCOTT STERLING: Yeah, it's --

JONATHAN WILLS: Can you give me the reference? SCOTT STERLING: Yeah, I shall.

And Cliff studied it fairly closely and had a number of interesting comparisons and conclusions.

JONATHAN WILLS: I need that paper for an argument I'm having back on the Shetland Islands. Excellent, thank you.

SCOTT STERLING: Probably we should let you ask more questions because we're going to have to go, I guess.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, well with regards to that, you know, it seems like a lot of the answers were to have an independent organization similar to a citizens’ advisory council,

but in that paper particularly was there anything unique or different to try to --

SCOTT STERLING: Well, you have to take -- you have to delineate all the differences in the political systems and culture,

taking those into account, it's a parliamentary democracy.

JONATHAN WILLS: So a lot of oil boomers and no -- plenty of --

SCOTT STERLING: Right. They have a -- they have a different idea of the nature of what should be the cooperation between community government and industry as they define capitalism for their purposes.

We’re -- we’re Americans. We are much more individualistic.

We're less inclined to look to government for solutions.

We're more interested in individual entrepreneurial -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: -- models and effort.

And I think that we have to respect that because we can’t ask ourselves to not be who we are,

but what we can ask ourselves to do is learn --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. SCOTT STERLING: -- from others.

I think that some of the comparisons and some of the lessons learned are that

the essential issues when it comes to safety, technology and economics aren't going to differ very much from one place to another.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. They're sort of like universals, like X.

JONATHAN WILLS: I mean, I know drillers who've moved from the British sector of the North Sea to the Norwegian.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: Because they know that in the Norwegian sector, that kind of nonsense is never going to happen.

SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: And this is not -- this is not an attempt to create a communist --

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Transcript

SCOTT STERLING: Dan -- one of the things he always impressed me -- impressed upon me really was to put your emphasis on best evidence. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: In order words, hold yourself to the highest possible standards of research in query, peer review, study.

But once you have it, you know, and you're sure you're right, then go ahead. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And don’t -- don’t be afraid to go ahead, because debating over fine points of science is one thing.

And methods and means and techniques. And it can get sophisticated and a little hard for a lay person to grasp from time to time.

But as Jonathan pointed out, if you are careful and hire advisors and consultants and scientists to help you who are honest and of good repute,

you will get quality evidence and you will be able to have objective facts and evidence on the table.

Then the debate will switch to what is the political dimension, what is the economic dimension, what is the dimension that we're going to talk about in terms of the future.

I think Alaska as much as, if maybe not a little more so than Shetland, we are democratic.

We're pretty transparent.

We have a system of laws, as imperfect as it may be, is still maybe better than all others.

JONATHAN WILLS: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: So -- JONATHAN WILLS: It's a little slow sometimes.

SCOTT STERLING: We're a little slow sometimes,

but I think that that matters a lot if you want, you know,

I was really appreciative of your mentioning let’s talk about the future and implications for the future.

I think that is extremely important.

Not that -- I mean we learn from the past, but we have to -- we should be planning for the future for the coming generations.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: We're at that stage now. The 25 years is kind of --

SCOTT STERLING: The 25 years is coming. I think that there's --

it's very important to understand what happened and why.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And it's very important to document history as it proceeds,

so that we can learn from it and also so that we know. So that --

because humans, we have to know things.

And I like the idea that there are histories available and that we are -- we have, you know, we lost a great leader in Stan.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah. SCOTT STERLING: A person whose personal repository was -- JONATHAN WILLS: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: -- immeasurable, but who also supported RCAC, the community of Valdez, the Prince William Sound as a whole,

because he loved it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yes.

SCOTT STERLING: And he knew of its importance as --

not just as an ecosystem which makes it sound a little -- ecosystem hardly begins to describe Prince William Sound and the places like it in the world.

And that's what I always try to remember is that you want for your children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy that Sound,

and see those creatures and hear and experience what it's like to be in the Sound,

while at the same time realizing that, you know, it's at the center of an industrial economy.

And it is quite a contrast sometimes in that.

JONATHAN WILLS: The same with us.

Now, the reason I’m visiting Alaska this time is to -- sad reason, to attend and speak at Stan Stephens’ memorial at the weekend.

And it was a fascinating event.

It was quite a joyous event, because we were celebrating rather --

we were grieving, but we were celebrating, as well, a remarkable person. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And I’m afraid you can have all the organizations and structures and constitutions you like, but it does come down to individuals like Stan.

And the trouble is in our present system you can get activist burnout. I know Stan often felt close to that.

People who give all their spare time -- Stan was still running a business while he was --

and he was often using his own money to go on trips.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: He was a volunteer for RCAC.

JONATHAN WILLS: He was a volunteer throughout -- never paid.

And people get burned out because they're up against -- say it in your presence, Scott, armies of lawyers.

The industry -- the finances of the industry -- the oil industry and also the mining industry are so gigantic. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: That they can afford to have three shifts a day, teams of lawyers and publicists.

And they can buy advertising. They can -- they can schmooze the politicians.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: They have enormous power.

And for the ordinary citizen like Stan was to get involved is very difficult.

I've known a lot of people who couldn’t take it, who just ducked out of the whole thing after a while. They were burned out.

And the attitude there sometimes is well I’ve done all I can. I can’t devote any more of my time to this.

We’ll just have to leave it, and if there's another catastrophe so be it.

What I've also learned is that the industry and government do not learn by the kind of forensic evidence that we were mentioning earlier on.

They tend to learn by catharsis.

You have a catastrophe and all of a sudden oh we can do this, we can do that, we can improve this, we can improve that and Congressman George Miller said --

a film I made after the Exxon Valdez, he said -- great line -- he said these people can do all this.

Where were you the morning before the Exxon Valdez? Where were you?

And of course, they weren’t doing it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And do you think they weren’t doing it because there wasn’t --

JONATHAN WILLS: Cheaper. It saves money.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. And there wasn’t an organization like RCAC in place that they --

JONATHAN WILLS: Exactly.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So RCAC in a way, with what I'm understanding from both of you is it provides a gateway and a voice for regular citizens

to have a say in the lands that they live in.

JONATHAN WILLS: That's right. Passive opinions listened to.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: But Rick and I and others for years since RCAC started up I think suggesting it --

we've suggested it in Sakhalin in Russia where we went to do a study.

We've suggested it in Mauritania, Western Africa.

And various other places and most recently in the Canary Islands where there's a big oil development likely to happen. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And it's resisted.

The industry through its pressure on governments all over the world resists having the kind of local involvement that we had in Shetland from 1972, ‘3 on

and the kind of citizens’ oversight that you have in Prince William Sound through RCAC from 1990 on.

But why are they still resisting this?

I'm not going to characterize them. I just ask the question. Why won't they see it's in their interests to have all these, you know, RCAC’s unpaid expertise.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Is it's -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: For the industry it's cheap peer review.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: You can believe what these people say, because nobody's paying them to say it.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: So RCAC is, in fact, an enormous asset for the oil industry.

And people like Stan weren't anti-oil industry. On the contrary, they saw exactly the benefits that industry could bring through employment and revenues to Alaska and to Prince William Sound. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: They wanted to use those revenues to develop ecotourism.

Stan always thought that the industry and wildlife could coexist.

And it can. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: It didn’t.

And we ended up with Exxon Valdez. But there's nothing to stop it happening.

He and I -- we weren't greenies who want to stop using fossil fuels. We recognize that you can’t stop using fossil fuels overnight.

My boat -- I run a wildlife tourism business which was inspired by Stan. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: I've run it for the last 22 years.

I use 30 tons of diesel a year. Who am I to say stop using fossil fuels. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: Nobody's made a gas boat yet that I can afford or a hydrogen powered one or an electric one. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: So we're going to go on using this fossil fuel probably for at least 50 years, maybe longer.

And we have got to use it safely because the dangers of spilling it are so utterly catastrophic,

particularly as we move into arctic waters off northern Alaska and off northern Europe.

SCOTT STERLING: And I think the Gulf {of Mexico] spill recently --

JONATHAN WILLS: Oh.

SCOTT STERLING: Sort of documented a lot of -- the end result of technological failure can be so catastrophic so quickly. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: That's part of what makes any kind of energy and whether it's fossil fuel or nuclear -- any technological failure or mishap can be catastrophic really quickly.

And that it can hit you like a tsunami almost.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: And it -- while we plan for it and we seek to prevent it, let’s face it by the time we get around to responding we’re --

I mean I was -- happened to go with Stan and Dan and Rick to Shetland to be with Jonathan.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Dan, you mean Dan Lawn?

SCOTT STERLING: Dan Lawn to --

We went over as guests of the Shetland Islands Council to the Braer Spill.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And it was remarkable how the weather was such a big factor in that one as opposed to well, what we had experienced in Prince William Sound.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, they sprayed dispersant. It never really hit the sea.

SCOTT STERLING: And, I mean, the winds were (speaking over each other)

JONATHAN WILLS: And there were some places where it hit people on the shore, and it made them sick.

SCOTT STERLING: Right, right. It was persistent cyclonic winds.

And so people would say well do you have, you know, much to show. We had brought our videos and cameras and whatnot of the oil on the water

and in fact we did not because it was atomized by the force of nature.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, the sea churned it up.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Churned it.

JONATHAN WILLS: But thirty foot seas in a forty foot deep bay and it was just like an enormous washing machine or a cement mixer.

And the oil went into suspension and the tide carried it away and in three weeks you didn’t know there'd been any oil there. SCOTT STERLING: It was --

JONATHAN WILLS: Up in the bays, it went into the sediments.

It wrecked the salmon farming industry.

SCOTT STERLING: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: In part of Shetland. But --

SCOTT STERLING: It was lesson learned in several ways. Not only on the side of the maritime side and the maritime transport of oil, which is a very risky business and is hard to --

you have to be continually vigilant to keep it safe. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: But also that the X-factor of nature combining to --

in that case cause complete engine failure in a vessel swamped with green sea water.

JONATHAN WILLS: Well, actually the vessel was unseaworthy.

SCOTT STERLING: And she was unseaworthy, too.

JONATHAN WILLS: When she left Norway, her American owners thought (inaudible).

SCOTT STERLING: But -- and she was completely full of oil.

I guess my point about it is that I think --

I think it's really hard for people to be conscious of why cooperation and competition can sort of co-exist.

And why you can have arms length professional distaff relationships so that you can be able to analyze evidence objectively.

Have a debate and try and draw some conclusions that will form good public policy. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And good corporate citizenship, good community citizenship.

Vilifying each other never accomplishes anything and doesn’t make anything safer.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. And I think that's important, too.

It's really important to have the dialogue.

It's really important to have the relationships when as Jonathan mentions it gets resisted a lot. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: I've given some thought to how do you -- how do you get that resistance to soften and usually you try --

someone's opposing you, you try to get them to see -- look maybe if you would give some thought to some of what I'm saying,

maybe I could show you how this could actually help you or work for you.

No industry wants to spend money unnecessarily,

and will analyze any proposal that might cost money probably with a fair amount of hard nose economic rigor.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: I think all that's fine.

And I think that you should also rigorously analyze scientific evidence as well as economics,

but at some point I think the political decision must be made.

Are we going to anticipate risk and in anticipation of risk are we going to ask for input as much as possible.

And I was going to -- just one and I'll shut up, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No, no, no. That's what this is for.

SCOTT STERLING: The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities now uses a consultative community base model to reach out to communities whenever a project of some magnitude,

usually a rail transport, highway transport improvement, new highway, whatever it may be.

One's going on not far from where I live right now and I've been involved in it.

It is so much better than what it was 20 years ago. JONATHAN WILLS: Oh, yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: When basically the department would announce, well we're building the road through your backyard and lucky you, you know, and thank you so much.

Maybe you can open a store.

Now they’re -- what they do is they work on alternatives. They hold series of meetings.

They invite people to sit in on the consultations with the engineers and the planners and it's a completely different atmosphere.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, that's what happened with us for the new gas plant which is being built because our oil era is no more over than Alaska’s is.

Oil and gas is going to be in the Shetland Islands for at least another 50 years.

It's here to stay and we're going to have -- to have to tame it, I suppose.

Scott mentioned in passing the Macondo disaster in the Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico.

Here again we didn’t learn anything. It didn’t teach us any new lessons.

Everything that went wrong there --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Could have been avoided.

JONATHAN WILLS: Could have been avoided if they listened to the drillers.

You know, the drillers I know in the oil industry are some of the most conscientious skilled people I've ever met.

They don’t want blowouts and spills.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: We had one on the Elgin Field in the North Sea, a huge gas blowout.

Sorry, it was called a leak not a blowout. It's Total .

The French for blowout is leak, apparently.

But, we learned from that and from Macondo that the issue is shoddy workmanship.

It was some bean counter in an office thousands of miles away putting pressure on a manager who's already under pressure, putting pressure on the drillers and the well engineers to not cement it properly.

To not wait long enough between processes.

I mean everybody who's ever drilled a well knows that that is a crazy way to proceed. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And which is why people are still in court. And will be for a while.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, but that -- that -- I mean, you know, it was tragic. People lost their lives.

JONATHAN WILLS: Absolutely.

SCOTT STERLING: People who were trying to do their jobs lost their lives because of these -- of these errors and oversights. And

I, you know, I was extremely upset by that. I thought that that was -- not to mention the damage to the earth and the sea but the people on shore, but the --

the fact that, you know --

JONATHAN WILLS: 11 people lost their lives.

SCOTT STERLING: 11 people lost their lives.

JONATHAN WILLS: Because of corner cutting.

SCOTT STERLING: Who were doing their jobs. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And who that would have been the very last thing any of them would have liked to have seen happen.

Not because of the danger to themselves alone, but because they know nothing of that magnitude or type that happens helps anyone.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: It does not do anything, except I think you're quite right.

It reminds us again there's not a lot new to learn.

JONATHAN WILLS: No. SCOTT STERLING: It is how well are we doing with what we do know.

JONATHAN WILLS: Right. Well, the Piper Alpha catastrophe in the North Sea the year before Exxon Valdez in ’88 -- 25 years ago this year.

The Piper Alpha was completely unnecessary.

And again it was because of corner cutting ordered by bosses thousands of miles away.

And that's why those wells blew and that blew up and it killed one hundred and -- more than 150 people.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you mentioned a lot of times with all these catastrophes that it could have been prevented -- it could have been prevented.

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: And for me the question is --

I understand how wonderful a citizens’ group, but why can’t the government do the same thing as what a citizens’ group -- JONATHAN WILLS: Money

ALICIA ZORZETTO: In your opinion.

JONATHAN WILLS: Money.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You think it's money. JONATHAN WILLS: Money. Government's depend on oil revenues.

Not just state governments and local authorities like our case,

but in Britain we have probably the most favorable taxation regime for oil and gas companies in the world.

They're massively subsidized by all the taxpayers because of the breaks they get.

And it's still not enough. And they lobby governments. They have people permanently paid in the House of Commons and in the Ministries. They have people on (inaudible).

The old revolving door scenario that you're familiar with in the United States. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And fortunately we have a thing called the European Union.

We don’t have a United States of Europe, and some people don’t want it,

but the European Union is taking new initiatives to require greater safety procedures on the new deep water gas and oil fields west of the Shetland Islands out in the Atlantic -- on the edge of the Atlantic.

And that's being resisted by national governments.

The European Union is not beholden to the oil industry for its revenues. It's funded by the purchase tax -- VAT, Value Added Tax.

And the European Union is taking a super national approach and saying that if you're going to expand into these waters off Spain, off Ireland, off Scotland, the north of Shetland you are going to have to clean up your act.

And learning from Macondo, we want these assurances.

We want to know that if it does happen, you actually do have a thing like a dunce’s cap that can fit over the well and stop it -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh

JONATHAN WILLS: -- blowing. Because our nightmare in the cold stormy waters over a thousand feet deep west of the Shetland Islands is a seabed blowout.

A blowout on a rig or a platform is bad enough, but you can deal with that usually.

But if it's on the seabed it's incredibly -- it's months before you can drill a well to kill it.

It took long enough in the Gulf of Mexico in the lovely calm weather they had.

If it happens off Shetland, one that size, we are in for a big catastrophe because that stuff's going to go up under the arctic ice.

That's the way the currents go.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So it's interesting. You're saying that in Europe the EU has less --

is less influenced by the oil companies.

JONATHAN WILLS: It's becoming -- it's becoming more involved in regulation and governments that are I would say the pay of oil companies, but very dependent on them are resisting it.

The British government in particular has resisted the initiative from Europe.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: For the states -- for America, would you say there's more influence by the oil companies within the state of Alaska or federally?

JONATHAN WILLS: I just know what I read in the Anchorage Daily News.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Scott, do you have an opinion about that, as far as -- ?

SCOTT STERLING: I think that Alaska, of course, has a very close relationship with the oil industry in so many parts of our daily lives. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: Including that at the state government level. Yes, I think it's very important.

I think that there are many good people on both sides who try and keep it as safe as possible.

I think there are economic pressures that come to bear.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: And then it becomes a political decision by lawmakers as to what level of taxation they wish to see

versus what the industry wishes to see versus, you know, what do we think is best for our people.

And those decisions get made from time to time and you can have principled opposition on both sides, you know.

I do think that it's -- if you take it as a given that ordinary everyday people aren’t going to have a paid lobbyist. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: Advocating for their interests as a -- as a polity in the halls of power,

and that industry almost certainly does and will. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Then there's an imbalance of influence at work.

And that imbalance of influence is best counteracted by information sharing, transparency, and most important activism.

I think that when you have something on the model of a RCAC or similar body that gives communities and ordinary people a voice in the industry at the level where the impacts are felt most directly

than that at least may make up a little bit for the imbalance in influence that exists in the halls of power.

And I've always thought that that sometimes the successful person is the one who doesn’t -- who bends rather breaks when the strong wind comes, right?

Be a willow, not an oak

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: You know, find a way. Adapt. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I think that adapting to political reality whatever it may be, from -- you know, it always changes. It's always in flux,

but adapting to political reality when you know that the consequences of not having a voice, not being heard, not being the reminder against complacency, which I think our friends --

I think Stan would want us to say complacency is our chief enemy.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: Then work to find political solutions.

Realize that compromise is inherent to the American democracy and our -- and our political culture. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: But also understand that be clear eyed about what really happens.

You know, if you see a vote go a certain way, you know, are you going to say well, did the ordinary people of my community have a lobbyist there. Well, probably not, right?

But -- but by the same token don’t -- don’t get discouraged and say oh nothing can be done because that's not true either.

In fact, elections are held to -- to, you know, allow for change to occur. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I often think that -- I sort of take it as a given that people will always be advocating for their own interests whether in industry or elsewhere. JONATHAN WILLS: That’s certain.

SCOTT STERLING: Take that as a given. Don’t -- don’t sweat it, work with it. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And adapt to it and bring your own solutions to the table.

The -- the innovation that was represented by the formation of RCAC by --

by Jonathan and Rick and others was really a way of saying this is going to be a voice on the ground first and foremost.

And on the sea as opposed to, you know, in the halls of power.

Although I think that you should walk the halls of power and make sure that the evidence is known to those who do make -- sit in the seats of power.

But by the same token regardless of who sits in the seats of power if this works as it should -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: At its most effective, it should still do its job and prevent -- right?

I mean I know -- I know it sounds idealistic. I don’t mean to sound naïve.

JONATHAN WILLS: That's not idealistic at all. In Scotland, there is an official position and it's called the Queen’s Remembrancer, an historiograper royal.

And this is an academic, usually from the University of Edinburgh, whose job it is to keep her majesty informed if she's going to visit somewhere of what's the historical background.

To remind her. To be her remembrancer.

And it seems to me that that's one of the main functions of a citizens’ advisory council. Is to be a remembrancer.

SCOTT STERLING: I think we've created a new position.

JONATHAN WILLS: It's the peoples’ remembrancer. It's also thre remembrance for the state government, the feds, and for the oil industry.

SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: And because you can’t have a remembrancer royal here because you're a republic.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, we'll figure --

JONATHAN WILLS: That’s another whole (inaudible) to discuss later. SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: I want to go -- to talk about the money issue.

We all know Alaska's an oil state and it's notorious. Anyone who's read any Alaskan history knows that the oil industry has influence because of their lobbyists.

Who's looking at Norway, what happens there? Because Norway has a much better safety record. They've had their disasters like Alexander Kielland.

But Norway has -- it has much better labor relations in the oil industry. They're far higher pay.

The workers have rights, which were unthinkable in the British sector in the North Sea and probably the American.

And yet Norway has a very successful record. They have big public investment through shares in Statoil and Norsk Hydro, although those are mostly private companies now.

They have a gigantic permanent fund, a Sovereign Wealth Fund, which the new Norwegian government seems to turn into spent on tax breaks for the rich, but we won’t go there.

But Norway is the success story in environmental terms, in labor relations terms, and in redistributing the wealth because the, you know, the trickle down effect works in Norway.

It works because of the state fund so that, you know, oil funds are used to help struggling fishing villages in the arctic and marginal farmers.

And Norway's not in the European Union. It's a very interesting place, Norway.

On the other hand, nobody goes there to study it because if you want a pint of beer it'll cost you 10 pounds.

A bottle of wine 50.

SCOTT STERLING: But to underscore what Jonathan said there is Cliff Groh, Jr., who is an Anchorage well-known individual here in town and who is an attorney,

did write a paper on Norway and the comparisons between the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Alaska Permanent Fund.

JONATHAN WILLS: I didn’t know that. SCOTT STERLING: Yeah, it's --

JONATHAN WILLS: Can you give me the reference? SCOTT STERLING: Yeah, I shall.

And Cliff studied it fairly closely and had a number of interesting comparisons and conclusions.

JONATHAN WILLS: I need that paper for an argument I'm having back on the Shetland Islands. Excellent, thank you.

SCOTT STERLING: Probably we should let you ask more questions because we're going to have to go, I guess.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, well with regards to that, you know, it seems like a lot of the answers were to have an independent organization similar to a citizens’ advisory council,

but in that paper particularly was there anything unique or different to try to --

SCOTT STERLING: Well, you have to take -- you have to delineate all the differences in the political systems and culture,

taking those into account, it's a parliamentary democracy.

JONATHAN WILLS: So a lot of oil boomers and no -- plenty of --

SCOTT STERLING: Right. They have a -- they have a different idea of the nature of what should be the cooperation between community government and industry as they define capitalism for their purposes.

We’re -- we’re Americans. We are much more individualistic.

We're less inclined to look to government for solutions.

We're more interested in individual entrepreneurial -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: -- models and effort.

And I think that we have to respect that because we can’t ask ourselves to not be who we are,

but what we can ask ourselves to do is learn --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. SCOTT STERLING: -- from others.

I think that some of the comparisons and some of the lessons learned are that

the essential issues when it comes to safety, technology and economics aren't going to differ very much from one place to another.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. They're sort of like universals, like X.

JONATHAN WILLS: I mean, I know drillers who've moved from the British sector of the North Sea to the Norwegian.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: Because they know that in the Norwegian sector, that kind of nonsense is never going to happen.

SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: And this is not -- this is not an attempt to create a communist --