Communities in rural Alaska are finding themselves especially affected by the recent steep increase in fuel prices. Fuel costs are increasing at an alarming rate nationwide, and these high prices have come at an unfortunate time for rural Alaska because this is when Tribal organizations, village corporations and local governments typically start making bulk fuel purchases. Bulk purchases are the most cost efficient and logical way of buying fuel in western Alaska, where all goods are delivered by barge or plane, thus requiring large amounts of fuel year-round.  The ability to afford gasoline, diesel and heating oil continues to worry rural Alaskans.

The price hike also means that power bills for many rural Alaskan communities could increase by more than 50 percent. Alaska Village Electric Cooperative is the utility for 58 communities across rural Alaska. The cooperative purchases fuel futures at a million gallons at a time to lock in a price for the coming months. With current fuel costs, prices in Alaska are likely to remain high.

Fortunately, there are resources to assist these communities during these times. The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development has a revolving loan fund (RLF), which helps communities with populations under 2,000 to make bulk fuel buys. The Power Cost Equalization Program is another available resource that works to help rural Alaska residents afford the higher energy costs. There is also the possibility of a $1,300 “energy relief check” and a $1,250 Permanent Fund dividend, though this has not yet been approved by the House of Representatives.

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