Aleut Update

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Despite losing the Republican primary and therefore the governorship of Alaska, Governor Frank Murkowski has created a policy-level office to advise on rural energy policy and oversee $183 million to help the neediest Alaskans in rural areas with their energy bills. Murkowski used the opportunity to take a swipe at Hugo Chavez and his ham-handed attempts to buy favor with poor Americans. The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association just rejected oil from Chavez a few weeks ago, remember.

JUNEAU, Alaska – Gov. Frank Murkowski on Thursday created a rural energy adviser post, signed over $183 million that will help rural Alaskans pay their electricity bills, and criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's fuel program for the state's villages.

Citgo, the Venezuelan government's Texas-based oil subsidiary, is donating about $5.3 million to Alaska Native nonprofit organizations to buy fuel this winter for more than 12,000 households, and has given millions more in other parts of the country.

About 150 Alaska Native villages have accepted the offer, but a few have refused, saying they don't want to participate in what they consider an attempt by Chavez — an adversary of President Bush — to embarrass the U.S.

Murkowski said his announcement was not a response to the Venezuelan fuel aid. The state's rural energy aid was approved by the Alaska Legislature earlier this year, and Murkowski said his new adviser would continue the work of an existing rural energy council.

But when asked about the Venezuelan aid, Murkowski said Chavez should be trying to lift Venezuelans out of poverty and "tin shacks" instead of trying to "buy favoritism" elsewhere.

"I think Chavez should practice a little recognition that charity begins at home," Murkowski said.

Remember, you can help the Pribilof Islands Association by donating to their energy fund here.

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