Alaskans bank on annual oil royalty dividend

Winter may be looming in Alaska but it’s also the time of year that residents in our 49th state find out how much they’ll get in their annual oil royalty checks. This year it’s $1,305:

The amount — announced Wednesday by Gov. Sean Parnell — is nowhere near the size of last year’s bounty from the state’s oil royalty investment program.
Residents, who must live in Alaska one calendar year to qualify, received $2,069 in 2008. Dividends were combined with a special energy relief payment of $1,200, bringing last year’s individual total payout to $3,269.
Payments were reduced because investment earnings allocated to the annual dividends are based on a five-year average of fund performance, which was weak last year because of the economic downturn. Before last year, dividend payments ranged from $331 in 1984 to $1,963 in 2000.

The payments really can be a big deal to many in the state, which is largely rural. When I visited in 2007 the crew on a North Slope drilling rig I toured was practically giddy with the $1,654 per person payment (that includes a payment for each kid, too). In Barrow, Alaska, a town known for climate research and hunting (and a really bad vampire movie) that money also goes a long way.
The fund was established in 1976 after North Slope oil was discovered. Including the upcoming dividends, the fund has since yielded $17.35 billion to Alaskans since the first payout of $1,000 in 1982.