Headlamp – Climate change solution will create a climate change problem?

U.S. Supreme Court “seals” the deal. Bearded seals dwelling in the icy waters between Alaska and Russia will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt to reverse that status Monday. The United States’ highest court announced that it will not hear an appeal filed by oil industry advocates, the state of Alaska, the North Slope Borough and others seeking to overturn the threatened listing granted to bearded seals in 2012. The threatened listing, which applies to bearded seals in the Beringian region and in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, had been initially overturned in 2014 by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline in Alaska as “arbitrary and capricious,” but was reinstated in 2016 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The legal path for the threatened listing started in 2008 as a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace seeking Endangered Species Act protections for another ice-dependent seal species, the ribbon seal. In a settlement, NOAA agreed to review the status of all four species of seals that use ice in Arctic waters off Alaska. Ultimately, the ribbon seal did not get Endangered Species Act listing, though it was designated by NOAA as a “species of concern.” Bearded, ringed and spotted seals did get threatened designations, though for spotted seals the designation was only for a distinct population segment outside of U.S. waters.

Climate change solution will create a climate change problem? Widespread use of a futuristic energy technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would create severe environmental problems, scientists argue in a new critique, casting doubt on one potential method of helping humanity escape the worst effects of climate change. The technology, known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), comes in many variations. But the core idea is burning trees or other plants for energy while pulling in the resulting carbon dioxide and storing it below ground. When the plants grow back again, they would pull more carbon dioxide from the air, resulting in a net removal of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. BECCS has been used only rarely thus far, but many had hoped widespread use of the technology would provide large amounts of energy while helping to fight climate change. It would be particularly important if the world misses its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In that scenario, greenhouse gases concentrations would pass the maximum levels climatologists say could avoid bringing about extreme consequences of climate change, and hitting the targets would require “negative emissions” technologies that lower concentrations.

Good news for LNG industry – China cuts back on coal. China is replacing coal with gas, sucking up global supplies of the fuel and pushing up the price of liquefied natural gas to a three-year high. The world’s No. 2 economy is cutting back on coal after President Xi Jinping made a cleaner environment a key priority at last Fall’s Communist Party Congress. That has left large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas, including giants like German chemical company BASF SE and local producer Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., as supplies are diverted to households that had previously relied on coal for heating. China’s smog levels are still well in excess of World Health Organization standards, and analysts see no letup in the country’s move out of coal, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than gas.

Alaska earthquake gets US west coast refiners attention. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake early Tuesday in the Gulf of Alaska has prompted a tsunami warning issued for the coast, which could threaten shipments of Alaska North Slope crude from the Port of Valdez. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, the quake occurred 166 miles southeast of Kodiak. The Port of Valdez is the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, through with 548,293 b/d of crude was transported in December, according to the Alyeska Pipeline service company. Neither the Port of Valdez nor Alyeska Pipeline could be reached for comment. ANS crude is consumed largely by US West Coast refiners, and at times has been exported to Asia. The closure of the Port of Valdez or the trans-Alaska pipeline for an extended period would push USWC refiners to seek alternative waterborne exports. Headlamp wonders if lower 48 or international reporters are aware that we do have phones and email here?  The TAPS design is solid  and the TAPS support teams follow great protocols.  Exhibit 1:  It survived the Denali fault quake and nothing happened last night…

Talerico, Tarr and Taxes in House Resources. The House Resources Committee kicked off its first hearing this legislative session with predictable discussion: oil taxes. House Resources Co-chair Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) wants to increase the minimum rate from 4 percent to 7 percent when prices are above $25 a barrel. If passed by both chambers, the bill could be worth as much as $255 million to the state’s coffers annually, according to a Department of Revenue analysis. For example, when the market price for North Slope oil hits $60 per barrel, the state receives about $2 per barrel. Under Tarr’s proposal – HB 288 – a $60 per barrel market price would generate $3.55 a barrel for the state. According to a Department of Revenue December report, petroleum revenue was responsible for 65 percent of the state’s unrestricted revenue during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2017. Current prices for North Slope oil have been inching closer to $70 a barrel in recent weeks. On Friday, closed at $68.70. Tarr told the panel her bill falls into a bigger picture plan toward closing the $2.5 billion budget gap and is “a conversation starter”. “I hope (it’s) something we’ll think about as we try to address our fiscal challenges and this deficit,” Tarr said. Tarr’s offering quickly generated pushback from minority Republicans questioning whether the bill will have a chilling effect on long-term investment. David Talerico (R-Healey) said he’ll continue to ask how any tax bill affects production volume, future exploration, and overall future investment. He also wants to make sure there are no “creative amendments” that could send the bill down a path away from its original intent. Headlamp finds this intriguing as Speaker Bryce Edgmon told attendees at an RDC breakfast the week prior that the House would not be focusing on oil and gas taxes this session.

Better to buy washing machines and solar panels locally…. President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Monday, giving a boost to Whirlpool Corp and dealing a setback to the renewable energy industry in the first of several potential trade restrictions. The decisions in the two “Section 201” safeguard cases followed findings by the U.S. International Trade Commission that both imported products “are a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. The washer tariffs exceeded the harshest recommendations from ITC members, while the solar tariffs were lower than domestic producers had hoped for. The restrictions aim to help domestic manufacturers but drew complaints that consumer costs for new washers and solar installations will rise.

First Reads:

US Supreme Court won’t hear case to remove bearded seals from endangered list
Arctic Now, Yereth Rosen, January 22, 2018

It’s the big new idea for stopping climate change — but it has huge environmental problems of its own
The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, January 22, 2018

China Sucks Gas Out of Global Market Amid Shift From Coal
The Wall Street Journal, Sarah McFarlane and Nathaniel Taplin, January 23, 2018

Alaska earthquake could threaten over 500,000 b/d of ANS crude oil shipments
S&P Global Platts, Jeff Mower, January 23, 2018

House bill reignites longstanding oil tax debate
KTVA, Steve Quinn, January 22, 2018

Trump slaps steep U.S. tariffs on imported washers, solar panels
Reuters, David Lawder & Nichola Groom, January 22, 2018