Headlamp – The return of “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down.” State climate change plan short on details.

Thumbs Up:

House Resources committee for passing HB 331 – a bill to pay a debt owed and put Alaskans to work

Thumbs Down:       

Rep. Paul Seaton for introducing HB 411, the 8th oil tax change in 12 years, with 5 days left in the session

Thumbs Up:

Legislature’s oil tax consultant for clearly stating “non-payment of oil tax credits is what’s keeping investors from coming to Alaska.”

Thumbs Down: 

Rep. Gara for claiming that a 25% increase of $800 million is a “modest” increase while refusing to reduce the budget by even $50,000.  


Walker’s climate change task force asks Alaskans to turn their back on fossil fuels. The state of Alaska should reduce its use of fossil fuels, increase investment in renewable energy and plan for a global transition away from oil and gas. Those are some of the first recommendations from Governor Bill Walker’s climate change task force, which is meeting in Fairbanks today. The 20-person team was appointed by the governor last fall to write a state climate policy. The first draft of that policy is out and the recommendations run the gamut — from putting a price on carbon, to supporting a more diversified economy, to improving how climate change is taught in schools, to creating an emergency response fund. Michael LeVine is a task force member and senior Arctic fellow with the environmental group Ocean Conservancy. He said the big takeaway is how widely Alaska will feel the effects of climate change. “The choices we make about our communities and our economies can’t be cabined into a corner and called ‘climate change issues,’” LeVine said. “They are Alaskan issues. They are issues that affect all of our people, all of our communities and our economy.” So far, the draft is short on key details. It calls for the state to reduce carbon emissions by 2030, but it doesn’t say by how much. And it doesn’t put a price tag on any of its proposals. Task force members say those numbers will come later.

South Korean Supply Chain. Workers at a rural South Korean factory are busy extracting some of the world’s most coveted metals, used in the batteries that power electric cars. But they’re not digging in the ground or refining ore. Instead, they are sorting through a pile of lithium-ion batteries from old mobile phones and laptops. As China’s aggressive hunt for overseas cobalt and lithium for electric vehicles pushes up prices and causes a global shortage of the key metals, South Korea is increasingly turning to such “urban mining” to recover cobalt, lithium and other scarce metals from electronic waste. In 2016, the most recent year from which data is available, 19.6 trillion won ($18.38 billion) worth of metals were extracted from recycled materials, meeting roughly 22 percent of the country’s total metal demand, according to a report by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology. SungEel HiTech is South Korea’s largest battery recycler. A decade ago, the company was at a crossroads as plasma TV panels, from which it extracted gold and silver, began to phase out.

Seaton says he and others will be “too busy worrying about re-election to deal with oil taxes” later.   The House Finance Committee has proposed a tax on the oil industry that could be worth more than $700 million to the state’s treasury. It comes with just a few days left in the 90-day session, though the state’s constitution still permits lawmakers to work through May 16. The proposal, first heard Tuesday night, reflects an ongoing effort by the House majority to generate new revenue while the state faces a $2.3 billion budget deficit. So far, those two-year efforts have been met with staunch Senate resistance. House Finance Committee Co-chair Paul Seaton (R-Homer) says the state cannot rely just on budget cuts and tapping into savings each year. “It’s one of those things where you need to have revenue,” Seaton said. “Balancing revenue and expenditure is balancing the budget. If you don’t want to balance the budget– other than taking out from a different savings account– you might not like this. “Most people realize that the lowest taxation on oil companies on the North Slope in the history of our state– I mean that’s when we started producing oil– is not a good system.” Senate Finance Co-Chair Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) says there is hardly enough time for such review.


First Reads:

‘Urban mining’ in South Korea pulls rare battery materials from recycled tech
Reuters, Jane Chung and Ju-min Park, April 12, 2018

Draft Walker climate policy urges Alaska to transition away from fossil fuels
KTOO Public Media, Rachel Waldholz, April 12, 2018

House finance reprises oil tax debate
KTVA, Steve Quinn, April 11, 2018