The U.S. government's latest estimate is that 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (search) lies beneath Alaska — enough to heat millions of American homes for a century.

Just one problem — no method exists for getting it from the tundra to the rest of the American states; the price tag is too high.

A proposed 3,600-mile pipeline that would go through Alaska and Canada and end up in the Midwest would cost about $20 billion. Exxon, BP and ConocoPhilips, who own rights to the gas, say they can't afford it and have asked Congress for tax breaks and a loan guarantee.

Thanks in part to the powerful Alaska congressional delegation that wants the construction jobs, an energy bill (search) on Capital Hill contains those incentives, although it's going nowhere fast.

But critics say there's a shorter, cheaper route that's been killed in Congress, and taxpayers are getting ripped off while a select few companies would receive a non-competitive marketplace advantage.

"That's what Alaska's trying to push — a very, very high cost line and they're trying to get the U.S. taxpayer to pay for it and take all the risk out of it for the oil companies and guarantee a very large profit," said Forrest Hoglund, CEO of Arctic Resources Company (search).

But they concede that a pipeline would keep the price of natural gas reasonable.

Click on the video box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Dan Springer.