Independent Hopefuls Following Walker’s Lead; Look before you leap

walker mallottIndependents banding together. The model, they hope: Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a lifelong Republican who quit the party two months before the 2014 election, picked a Democrat as his lieutenant governor/running mate, and squeaked out a win against the Republican incumbent. Walker recently announced he’s running for reelection, and he says he never looked back at his decision to leave the GOP—and that was before Trump split the party with a working-class message and heretical stances on entitlement programs, trade and basic decorum. Being an independent has its advantages, Walker says. “If a candidate comes up and says, ‘I’m a Republican’ or ‘I’m a Democrat,’ people know within probably 70 percent of where they stand. With an independent, it’s like, ‘OK, tell me about you,’” Walker told me during an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. But, he allows, “those that are running as independent have to work a little harder. We have to be a little bit more creative and figure out how to get it done.”

“Lots of revisiting and additional analysis…” The Trump administration on Monday said the entirety of Alaska’s petroleum reserve, including the half that had previously been unavailable for leasing to oil companies, is on the table for discussion as an area of future development. The Bureau of Land Management said Monday it will take public comments to gauge interest in potentially holding lease sales for all of the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the nation’s largest petroleum reserve. The announcement is a first step in a potential rollback of protections for the reserve under an administration that wants to open up federal lands to development. 

Mom and Pop investors. Low oil prices that have paralyzed some North Slope oil producers haven’t deterred a visionary batch of small-time investors from remaining optimistic that an Alaskan can still strike it rich in a field of oil giants. But they say a state decision in 2011 that sharply hiked bidding and lease costs has priced many of the “little guys” out of the market, making it too expensive for them to acquire and hold new oil and gas leases. They say that’s a problem in oil-dependent Alaska, where the mom-and-pop investors have aggressively promoted their leases, looking for companies with capital to buy them and develop fields.

Back in the saddle again. Congratulations to Former Alaska legislator Drue Pearce who has a new job in the Trump administration. She is now the deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency, created in 2004, oversees the nation’s network of pipelines, some 2.3 million miles, and the transportation of hazardous materials in general, by road, rail or air. Pearce was sworn in Monday morning. Pearce represented Anchorage in the Alaska Senate and served as Senate president. She resigned her seat in 2001 to be a senior adviser at the Interior Department. Headlamp is thrilled to see yet another extremely qualified Alaskan working in the Trump administration!

Lucky number 6. The Kenai Peninsula will get a few projects funded in the Legislature’s fiscal year 2018, the majority of which are in Seward. The Legislature approved an approximately $1.4 billion capital budget for the coming year in a brief special session in late July, which lays out funding for each state department’s projects. This year’s budget is greatly pared down from previous years and relies in large part on federal funds.

All eyes on Venezuela. The economic, political and security situation in Venezuela has been frightening for quite a while, but things continue to grow worse. The new “constituent assembly,” put together to rewrite the constitution, is seen by most as an attempt to erode the nation’s democracy and consolidate power in the hands of the president. In an ominous sign, more than a dozen soldiers reportedly attacked a Venezuelan military base on Sunday, and although the assault was put down, it highlights the increasing fragility of the state. “The significance lies in whether this suggests that Maduro is losing his grip on the military and whether we can expect to see more mutinies to come, or if this is just an isolated incident,” said Stuart Culverhouse, Global Head of Macro & Fixed Income Research at Exotix Capital in London. “Details are sparse and it’s probably too early to say either way at this stage.”

For the good of the order – Nigeria. The world oil market is making progress toward rebalancing crude oil supply-demand levels, concluded a joint OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC). The group met in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 24. Libya and Nigeria were exempted from the existing production-cut targets. On July 24, Nigeria voluntarily agreed to submit to production adjustments as soon as its output levels sustainably reach 1.8 million b/d, said a JMMC statement. “The continued strengthening of the global recovery is under way with stability in the oil market remaining a key determinant,” JMMC said. “The market volatility has been lower in recent weeks and investment flows have visibly started to improve,” for oil and gas activities. Oil demand is expected to increase during this year’s second half, JMMC said in a statement, adding that major producers have a 98% conformity level with the production-cut targets of 1.8 million b/d through first-quarter 2018.

China brings Trump and Schumer – Together? Tensions between the U.S. and China are escalating, and it could have a negative impact on clean energy policies that the two countries had previously agreed to. Over the past week, three Democratic Party senators backed President Donald Trump’s stance opposing China’s moves on intellectual property and trade relations. Since running for president last year, Trump had taken an aggressive stance on China relations and has since carried it out. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wants to see the Trump administration bypass an investigation and go straight into trade sanctions against China. “We should certainly go after them,” said Schumer in a statement reflecting rare bipartisanship in Washington.

walker mallott

Anti-Trump Independents Are Starting to Organize
Politico, Edward-Issac Dovere, August 8, 2017

Should all of NPR-A be on the table for oil development?
Alaska Dispatch News/Arctic Now, Alex DeMarban, August 8, 2017

North Slope’s small-time investors try to make a buck despite higher bidding costs
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, August 7, 2017

Drue Pearce appointed to U.S. pipeline safety agency
KTOO/Alaska Public Media, Liz Ruskin, August 7, 2017

Trump administration signals it could open more of the Arctic to drilling
KTOO, Elizabeth Harball, August 7, 2017

Kenai Peninsula gets 6 projects in capital budget
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, August 5, 2017

Venezuela Rebellion Could Send Oil To $80, Nick Cunningham, August 7, 2017

How U.S.- Chinese Tensions Could Impact Energy Policy, Jon LeSage, August 7, 2017

Nigeria agrees to limit future production as OPEC, non-OPEC producers meet
Oil & Gas Journal, Paula Dittrick, July 24, 2017