Headlamp – Increased production in spite of low prices.

Making the best of a bad situation. Alaska’s oil workforce has been hit hard by low prices, yet the companies in the state have managed to buck a longstanding trend and increase production for the last two years. So, what gives? For state Labor Department Economist Neal Fried, the curiosity in the numbers goes back further than when oil prices started tumbling from the $100-plus per barrel plateau in August 2014. “The whole trend in oil production and employment has been very interesting just because in 2015 we reached a record number of employees in oil and gas in the state’s history, which is pretty amazing given the fact that we were producing significantly less than our peak in 1988 or for many years before that,” Fried noted. He said that the decade-long run-up in oil and gas sector jobs exceeded the generally accepted notion that oil fields — the three primary North Slope fields are 17 to 40 years old — require more investment as they age.

Any port in a storm. With the federal government’s work toward creating a U.S. Arctic port stalled, existing Alaska ports from the Aleutian Islands to the Bering Strait will have to push forward on their own to support Arctic vessel activity. That was the message delivered last week at an Arctic conference in Anchorage. Representatives from the port cities of Nome, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and St. Paul, along with an official from the Alaska Native corporation that now controls most of the territory at the previously used site of Port Clarence, said their communities all had some claim for the title of the nation’s Arctic port—while also conceding that each site has some shortcomings.

Open for business? The Trump administration and congressional Republicans in recent weeks have renewed the fight over opening part of an enormous wildlife refuge in northern Alaska to oil and gas exploration. The battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which pits Republicans in Washington and much of the political and business establishment in Alaska against congressional Democrats and environmental and conservation groups, has been going on for decades. With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, the prospects for opening the refuge, at least to studies of its oil and gas potential, are better than they have been in years. And a budget resolution introduced late last month, and supported by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, may help pave the way. “There seems to be a decent opportunity to get this done,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, which promotes fossil fuels.

Walrus population “appears stable.” The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned the feds to list the walrus in 2008 — the same year the polar bear was listed, as threatened. The Center argues the same forces that threaten polar bears — including climate change and disappearing sea ice — also put the Pacific walrus at risk of extinction. Retreating Arctic sea ice has caused more female walrus to crowd onto beaches in coastal Alaska and Russia. The crowding can turn deadly when stampedes occur. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said the animal has “demonstrated an ability to adapt to changing conditions.” The agency declined to grant the walrus more protections because it said the population “appears stable.”

From The Washington Examiner’s Daily On Energy:

FERC CHAIRMAN ASSURES HE WON’T ‘BLOW UP’ THE GRID PLAN: The operative phrase thrown around Friday morning at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was “blow up,” as in NOT blowing up the electricity markets that the commission oversees. Chairman Neil Chatterjee told reporters at FERC headquarters that the goal of the commission in implementing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid plan to prop up coal and nuclear power plants is not to “blow up” the electricity markets. Chatterjee said he is looking for a solution “that doesn’t blow up markets,” but that can get at the issue while also holding up in the courts.

First Reads

Slope producers doing more with less
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, October 13, 2017

As federal plans falter, Alaska ports step up their own efforts to serve the Arctic
Arctic Now, Yareth Rosen, October 13, 2017

Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge: How the G.O.P. Could Finally Break the Impasse
The New York Times, Henry Fountain, October 13, 2017

Environmental group to sue Trump administration over Pacific walrus
Alaska Public Media, Elizabeth Jenkins, October 12, 2017