ALASKA BY THE NUMBERS – JULY 2019
Ed King, July 29, 2019
[Oil prices] in July 2019, the first month of FY19, averaged $65.82. There was surprisingly little volatility in the daily oil prices in July, even as some events in the Middle East, that would normally cause panic, were merely shrugged off.
The EIA short-term energy outlook for July sees Brent prices averaging $67 in CY20. If the current ANS premium holds, it would imply an ANS price for FY19 of right around $68.
Of course, the market is always adjusting to changing conditions. And right now, there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. Current options trading implies a 95% confidence interval for ANS of $45 and $92.
Exclusive: First big U.S. offshore wind project hits snag due to fishing-industry concerns
Nichola Groom, Reuters, July 28, 2019
Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Inc (AGR.N), was scheduled to begin construction this year 14 miles (23 km) off the coast of Massachusetts to power more than 400,000 homes by 2021 – making it the first large-scale offshore wind development in the United States.But a federal environmental study crucial to its permitting has been repeatedly delayed since April, according to published government timelines, without any public explanation from Trump administration officials. Vineyard Wind has said the delays could threaten the project’s viability.
Documents seen by Reuters, which have not previously been made public, show the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) triggered the delays by declining to sign off on the project’s design, as proposed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the lead agency on offshore wind projects.
Vineyard Wind said earlier this month that it told federal officials it would be “very challenging” to move forward with the project in its current configuration if the environmental permit is not issued within four to six weeks. The company wants to start construction soon to lock in a federal tax credit that expires next year. The credit is currently worth 12% of the value of the project.
Our take: It must be a bummer when environmentalists stymie themselves when they realize that green infrastructure involves…infrastructure. Here in Alaska, we know this story all too well. The Alliance continues to support responsible development and hopes that projects like this open the eyes of those who seek alternative energy sources to the dangers of overregulating.
Natural Gas Is Stuck in a Vicious Cycle
Lauren Silva Laughlin, The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2019
U.S. natural-gas demand, which reached nearly 30 trillion cubic feet in 2018, up from 22 trillion in 2005, when prices peaked at about seven times today’s level, is projected to grow by 7% a year in 2019 and 2020, according to EIA projections. That should slow considerably, but the agency doesn’t see prices rising consistently above $4 per million British thermal units before 2035, given ample supply.
From the Daily on Energy:
LOOKING TO HEAD OFF REGULATION, OIL & GAS INDUSTRY TOUTS VOLUNTARY METHANE REDUCTIONS: The oil and gas industry is touting voluntary efforts to cut emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon, as it tries to make the case against climate change regulations and mandates that have been proposed by Democrats running for president.
The American Petroleum Institute released its first progress report Tuesday on a voluntary program it started with 27 oil and gas companies in 2017 called The Environmental Partnership, which it created to limit leaks of methane and reduce emissions of related pollutants called volatile organic compounds.
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide, although its emissions don’t last as long in the atmosphere. Gas emits half the carbon of coal, making it the cleanest fossil fuel.
The stakes for industry: Environmental groups say methane leaks — which can happen purposely or accidentally during the production and transmission of gas — belie the industry’s attempt to sell gas as a “fuel of the future” rather than one that is phased out over coming decades as part of aggressive climate change plans proposed by Democrats.
“What our industry is really focused on is not pledges from politicians but progress from this industry,” Mike Sommers, API’s CEO, told reporters on a press call Tuesday. “The Environmental Partnership has demonstrated the progress that has occurred.”
Report card: Sommers, along with Matthew Todd, program director of the Environmental Partnership, shared the results of the program’s first ever annual report. The report showed how the partnership, which has grown to 66 members representing more than 80% of the top U.S. natural gas producers, has implemented a methane leak detection and repair program.
Companies conducted more than 156,000 leak surveys in 2018 across more than 78,000 production sites, finding a “leak rate” of only 0.16%. In the Permian Basin, the most prolific shale gas producing region, methane emissions relative to production have fell nearly 40% from 2011 to 2017, the report said.
“The very low leak rate we found is great performance,” Todd said.
Missing information, with no emissions reduction target: But the partnership does not require companies to disclose how many of those surveys it was forced to conduct because of federal or state regulations. That means it’s unclear how much of that work happened as a result of voluntary actions.
The partnership, notably, also does not require any overarching emission reduction goal for participating companies that are combating methane leaks, and the report did not measure the amount of emissions cuts that have occurred as a result of the program.
Todd defended the group’s approach by arguing that a reduction goal could “inhibit” the participation of smaller companies that don’t have expertise in limiting methane leaks, but benefit from the information-sharing in the program.
“If we required an emissions percentage reduction, it could prevent smaller operators from joining the program,” Todd said.
Industry will only go so far: Groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund that cooperate with industry to invest in technological research to better detect methane leaks say the current voluntary approach is insufficient.
Some individual companies, such as Shell, have urged the EPA to keep Obama-era regulations targeting methane leaks, instead of weakening them as planned. Sommers, though, argued that the industry is self-motivated to limit methane emissions because leaks remove product that can be sold for profit.
“We know the threat of climate change is real, but the solutions also have to be based in reality,” Sommers said. “We know from even most ambitious projections that oil and gas will be a significant part of the energy mix for years into the future.”
Legislature set to vote on dividend, university funding, rural energy assistance
Steve Quinn, KTVA, July 29, 2019
The Senate and House on Monday are poised to vote on separate budget bills that have implications for the Permanent Fund dividend, college scholarships and efforts to restore significant portions of the $444 million vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The House will take a final vote on a capital budget that not only draws federal matching dollars for highway, airport and construction projects, but it could also restore dozens of funds swept in the constitutional budget reserve. But that will take 30 votes rather than 21 from a simple majority, and the House fell five votes and a single vote short in previous efforts.
Our take: We will be watching closely as legislators take the floor today. The House will attempt to vote for a third and final time to fund the Capital Budget. The near billion dollars in federal match fund many of the capital improvement and maintenance projects that keep or state safe, and trade businesses employed. Now is a good time to contact your legislator and ask them to vote “YES” on funding the Capital Budget.
Legislation would launch wave of relocations
Marc Heller, E&E News, July 29, 2019
The Trump administration’s plans to move the Bureau of Land Management and two Agriculture Department agencies far away from the nation’s capital could be just the beginning of a wave of relocations, if legislation by Sen. Joni Ernst becomes reality.
The Iowa Republican introduced a bill last week to encourage executive agencies to move out of the Washington, D.C., area, with the exception of the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the State Department, the Executive Office of the President and others vital to national security.
From the Daily on Energy:
DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEYS GENERAL OPPOSE EPA GUIDANCE LIMITING STATE AUTHORITY OVER CLEAN WATER PERMITS FOR PIPELINES: A coalition of 14 Democratic state attorneys general is warning the EPA that the agency’s new guidance implementing President Trump’s executive order limiting state authority over oil and gas pipelines is illegal.
Trump signed an executive order April 10 designed to limit the instances in which blue states such as New York can reject pipeline projects using authority granted to states in Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Section 401 allows states to deny permits if leaks from an energy infrastructure project could harm nearby streams or lakes.
In comments filed Friday to the EPA, the Democratic attorneys general say the law provides states the primary authority to protect water quality within their borders, allowing for “broad discretion” in making decisions over pipeline certifications.
They also say EPA’s new guidance imposes burdensome limitations on states’ abilities to collect information about a project’s expected impacts on water quality, and sets “arbitrary and unreasonable” time limits on states’ completing water quality reviews.
“EPA’s guidance is yet another reckless attempt by the Trump Administration to weaken Clean Water Act protections for the nation’s waters,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The EPA must withdraw this unlawful attempt to strip states of their authority to regulate water quality.
NOTICE OF DATES AND LOCATIONS FOR PUBLIC COMMENT MEETINGS
DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
ALASKA LNG PROJECT
(July 26, 2019)
The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) will be present to receive comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Alaska LNG Project (Project) as follows:
|Date and Time (Alaska Daylight Time)||Public Comment Meeting Locations|
|Monday September 9, 2019 5:00–8:00 p.m.||Inupiat Heritage Center 5421 North Star Street Utqiagvik, AK 99723|
|Trapper Creek Elementary School 6742 Petersville Road Trapper Creek, AK 99683|
|Tuesday September 10, 2019 5:00–8:00 p.m.||Nuiqsut Kisik Community Center 2230 Second Avenue Nuiqsut, AK 99789|
|Houston Fire Station 9-1 13965 W Armstrong Road Houston, AK 99694|
|Wednesday September 11, 2019 5:00–8:00 p.m.||Tri-Valley Community Center 0.5 Mile Healy Spur Rd Healy, AK 99743|
|Nikiski Recreation Center – Banquet Hall Mile 23.4 Kenai Spur Highway Nikiski, AK 99611|
|Thursday September 12, 2019 5:00–8:00 p.m.||Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor’s Center 101 Dunkel Street Fairbanks, AK 99701|
|Dena’ina Center Khatnu 1 Room 600 West Seventh Avenue Anchorage, AK 99501|
The Bureau of Land Management will hold public subsistence hearings and solicit public testimony in two additional potentially affected communities as a part of its consideration under Section 810(a) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Bureau of Land Management will conduct those hearings at the following locations and times:
|Date and Time (Alaska time)||Subsistence Hearing Location|
|Tuesday, September 17, 2019 6:00–9:00 pm||Anaktuvuk Pass Community Center 3031 Main Street Anaktuvuk Pass, AK 99721|
|Thursday, September 19, 2019 6:00–9:00 pm||Kaktovik Community Center 2051 Barter Avenue Kaktovik, AK 99747|
As a reminder, the Commission encourages electronic filing of comments and has staff available to assist you at (866) 208-3676 or FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov. Please carefully follow these instructions for your electronic or written comments so that your comments are properly recorded.
- You can file your comments electronically using the eComment feature on the Commission’s website (ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. This is an easy method for submitting brief, text-only comments on the Project.
- You can file your comments electronically by using the eFiling feature on the Commission’s website (ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. With eFiling, you can provide comments in a variety of formats by attaching them as a file with your submission. New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on “eRegister.” If you are filing a comment on a particular project, please select “Comment on a Filing” as the filing type.
- You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address. Be sure to reference the Project docket number (CP17‑178-000) with your submission: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC
Alaskan Oil Shipments to South Korea Show Growing U.S. Reach
Sheela Tobben, Bloomberg, July 24, 2019
Alaskan oil shipments to South Korea are picking up, in another sign of the growing U.S. influence on the global market. Two tankers, each able to hold a million barrels of oil, are delivering cargoes this month into Yeosu in South Korea after filling up at the Valdez terminal, the loading point for crude from Alaska’s North Slope fields. These shipments will raise the Asian nation’s intake of supply from the U.S. state to 2.75 million barrels so far this year, the most in government data going back to 1992.
China Collusion Claim Compromises Green Group
National Center for Public Policy Research, July 23, 2019
“NRDC’s opposition to America’s fossil-fuel development comports with China’s goal of hamstringing its chief global rival. The Paris Climate Agreement heavily restricted U.S. energy development, which is exactly what NRDC and Beijing want.”
With Capitol Hill still fixated on long-discredited allegations of collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, the National Center’s Bonner Cohen is focused instead on simmering allegations of collusion between a green American nonprofit and Red China. In an article written by Kevin Mooney for the Washington Free Beacon, Bonner – a senior fellow with the National Center – says that emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit indicate that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was hard at work with the Obama Administration State Department to involve the United States in the climate change negotiations of the Paris Agreement. This seemed to lead to what Bonner says had all the “hallmarks of a treaty” without the necessary advise-and-consent involvement of the U.S. Senate.
AGDC president outlines path forward; China deal is dead
Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Journal of Commerce, July 24, 2019
Interim Alaska Gasline Development Corp. Joe Dubler insists that Alaska is still making unprecedented progress towards a long-sought natural gas pipeline project despite the fact that the lead agency on the effort is downsizing significantly. “I think we’re closer now than we’ve ever been” to making a gasline project happen, Dubler told House Resource Committee members on July 19. AGDC officials informed the Journal July 10 that the quasi-state agency would be ending its work to secure customers and investors for the roughly $40 billion Alaska LNG Project, as well as closing its public and government relations department. The remaining eight or nine employees will focus on completing the ongoing Alaska LNG environmental impact statement process the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC published the project’s nearly 3,700-page draft EIS June 28
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
EPA PARTNERS WITH CONSERVATIVE STUDENT GROUP TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: The EPA announced Wednesday that it signed a “memo of understanding” with a nonprofit conservative student group, called the American Conservation Coalition, to enhance environmental education in schools.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the “first-time” agreement is intended to prepare students for careers in environmental fields, and to encourage young people to get involved in issues like combating marine litter, improving recycling, and reducing lead exposure.
“EPA is proud to work alongside ACC to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders and advance solutions to today’s pressing environmental challenges,” Wheeler said.
Something is missing from the syllabus: The American Conservation Coalition visited Capitol Hill this week to lobby Republicans to pursue legislation to address climate change, but Wheeler did not mention climate change as a shared challenge in his statement.
Our Take: Benji Backer, the President and founder of The American Conservation Coalition, was recently in Alaska, speaking to Alaskans about his ideas for addressing climate change without harming the economy. Go Benji!!
It’s back: US Interior Dept. signs new land swap deal for King Cove road
Liz Ruskin, KTOO, July 23, 2019
The U.S. Interior Department has already signed a new land swap agreement for a King Cove road, days after it gave up its appeal of a court ruling that its prior agreement violated federal law.
As with previous agreements, this one calls for the department to give land in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to the Native corporation in exchange for land of equal value. The intent is to allow the corporation to complete the final 12 miles of road to Cold Bay.
2. Troubles may loom for battery supply chain
Ben Geman, Axios, July 24, 2019
There could be a “supply crunch” for cobalt, lithium, and nickel used in batteries for electric vehicles and other applications as soon as the mid-2020s, the consultancy Wood Mackenzie said Wednesday.
What’s next: Wood Mackenzie forecasts that pure electrics and plug-in hybrids combined will account for 7% of all passenger car sales by 2025, 14% by 2030 and 38% by 2040.
Of note: That’s less bullish than BloombergNEF, which sees EVs accounting for 57% of passenger car sales in 2040.
The bottom line: “The electrification of transport is redefining a number of metals markets,” Wood Mackenzie said in a release summarizing their analysis.
Our take: This is an excellent wake up call to both sides of the coin. Resource development should look toward materials that will help drive our energy future, while environmental groups should allow projects to move forward without insurmountable obstacles. If done right, it’s a win for all.
House Democrats Offer an Alternative to the Green New Deal
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, July 23, 2019
The goal, intended to slow the pace of global warming, does not include either a legislative or regulatory plan. It would very likely require rigorous new curbs on fossil fuels over the coming decades and steep increases in wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.
The initiative does not go as far as the Green New Deal. That Democratic plan calls for achieving carb
on neutrality within a decade and supplying 100 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources while also creating millions of high-wage jobs.
Analysts described the announcement Tuesday as an effort by centrist Democrats to reclaim the climate agenda while treating global warming with the urgency that scientists say it demands.
Our take: We’ll defer to Representative Greg Walden of Oregon – “If we’re serious about tackling this challenge, we need to continue to offer serious, bipartisan answers that protect our economy and our environment.” There’s a balance. And if it’s not economically feasible, it likely won’t get off the ground.
U.S. Oil Inventories Fall Much More Than Expected
Dan Molinski, Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2019
Crude-oil stockpiles declined by 10.8 million barrels to 445 million barrels, and now are about 2% above the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted crude stockpiles would fall by 4.1 million barrels from the prior week.
Oil stored at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for U.S. stocks, fell by 429,000 barrels to 50.4 million barrels, the EIA said in its weekly report.
From the Daily on Energy:
FERC TO CREATE NEW DIVISION TO HELP REVIEW LNG APPLICATIONS: FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee announced Tuesday that the agency is creating a new division to review an increasing number of permits for liquified natural gas export projects.
The Division of LNG Facility Review & Inspection will have 20 employees based in Washington D.C, and another eight employees based in Houston — the U.S. energy hub — working out of a new regional office.
“As the demand for U.S. LNG and the number and complexity of project applications has grown, the commission has experienced a similar growth in the need for FERC to expand its oversight in this program area,” said Chatterjee, a Republican.
For years, FERC has struggled with responding to a backlog of applications by companies looking to build facilities to export natural gas abroad. The agency, however, has issued five approvals of LNG export facilities this year.
By one vote, Alaska House again fails to fix capital budget and reverse sweep
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, July 22, 2019
The Alaska House of Representatives on Monday again failed to approve a fix for the state’s capital budget and the reverse sweep. The 29-7 vote on Senate Bill 2002 was enough to pass the bill but not enough to fund it. Thirty votes are needed to spend from the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, and the bill was written to rely on funding from that reserve.
Our Take: It’s time to pass the capital budget and fund it. Kudos to the house minority members who broke from their group and voted to fund the capital budget and create some stability for our economy.
In the opinion, the Court:
- Found that the EPA’s interpretation of “risk” was reasonable and “nothing in [the statute] mandates the EPA to promulgate financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry, authorizing the EPA to decline to do so”;
- Was “unpersuaded” by the petitioners’ claims concerning the EPA’s evaluation of the financial risks of the industry, finding that environmental organizations “misread the record and the EPA’s analysis,” and found “no ‘serious flaw’ in the agency’s economic analysis;”
- Recognized that the EPA’s analysis “makes clear, existing federal and state programs impose significant financial responsibility requirements on the hardrock mining industry;” and
- Concluded: “That the EPA might choose not to promulgate financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry has always been a foreseeable possibility; our decision in the Environmental Groups’ previous mandamus action expressly recognized that the EPA “retains ‘discretion to promulgate a rule or decline to do so.’”
Our Take: Great to see the court rejecting environmental groups’ challenge to the EPA decision that new, duplicative financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry are unnecessary — hardrock mines are already subject to significant financial assurance requirements under other federal and state laws.
Energy regulators divided over natural gas and climate change
Amy Harder, Axios, July 23, 2019
Regulatory decisions about America’s bounty of natural gas are in the hands of an obscure and understaffed federal agency with a limited mandate to think about climate change. Why it matters: With America’s production of oil and natural gas soaring and Congress not acting on climate change, the once-sleepy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is finding itself at the center of protests and lawsuits. Interviews with all 4 FERC members illustrate their division over how to handle greenhouse gas emissions. Driving the news: Democratic FERC Commissioner Richard Glick wants to require companies seeking approval for pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to offset significant greenhouse gas emissions, similar to the way companies compensate for more traditional environmental impacts like creating wetlands. The other side: “I just fundamentally disagree with Commissioner Glick on this matter,” said Neil Chatterjee, the panel’s Republican chairman. “The approach the commission has been taking is what we are statutorily obligated to do.”
Alaska Might Be Benefiting from Oil Sanctions
Ed King, King Economics Group, July 22, 2019
Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil has been selling at a premium to Brent for nearly a year, and we are seeing millions of dollars of added benefit as a result. The mostly likely cause is oil sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Let’s explore the situation.
Governor denies Democrats’ request to add oil tax reform to session
Sean Maguire, KTUU, July 20, 2019
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has denied a request from Senate Democrats to add oil tax reform to the call of the second special session. “With only a matter of days left in the special session, the Senate Democrats surely know there simply isn’t enough time to even begin examining any segment of the state’s petroleum tax structure,” read a prepared statement from the governor. The Senate Democrats sent a letter to the governor July 18 asking that oil tax reform be discussed. “We share a grave, growing concern with many Alaskans that the state’s current oil tax structure has not provided the people the benefits to which they are entitled,” read the letter signed by five Democratic senators.
Our Take: Good for the Governor. Trying to deal with an incredibly complicated subject like oil taxes with only days left in a session dedicated to budgets means no analysis or deliberation. Not a great way to make good public policy.
Oil prices rise after Iran seizes British tanker
Reuters, July 21, 2019
Oil prices rose on Monday on concerns that Iran’s seizure of a British tanker last week may lead to supply disruptions in the energy-rich Gulf. Brent crude futures climbed 53 cents, or 0.9%, to $63 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 25 cents, or 0.5%, at $55.88 a barrel. Last week, WTI fell over 7% and Brent lost more than 6%. “The events in the Gulf have definitely taken the market into more bullish territory in today’s trading,” said Erik Norland, senior economist at CME Group. “But that doesn’t mean markets will continue to go higher, and previous incidents in the Gulf haven’t driven up prices much – suggesting that investors’ calculus, rightly or wrongly, is that a war is not very likely.”
Berkley Bans Natural Gas: Poor and minority families will pay more for utilities.
The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2019
The Berkeley, California, City Council is getting headlines for its decision last week to ban supposedly gendered language from its city code. “Manhole” and “manpower” are now out in favor of “maintenance hole” and “human effort.” Somewhere George Orwell is crying, but the city’s progressive lords were even more destructive when they also moved to ban natural gas from nearly all new buildings. The ordinance is due for a second reading this week and already has unanimous council support. Beginning Jan. 1, with few exceptions the city will deny developers permission to build a home, town house or small apartment building with natural gas hook-ups for cooking, heating or hot water. The ordinance’s stated goal is “fossil free new buildings,” and Berkeley plans to expand the ban to bigger apartment buildings and commercial structures.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
MILLENNIAL REPUBLICANS WANT ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, SURVEY FINDS: Another conservative group, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, released the results of a national survey Monday of millennial Republican voters that found over two-thirds want the party to do more to combat climate change.
About 67% of 801 GOP voters ages 18-38 who were surveyed said they believe the Republican Party needs to do more. However, fewer than half (49%) say that ignoring climate change will be harmful to the Republican Party. One-third of voters polled disagree with that view.
More than four in five, 82%, of millennial Republicans said it is very important or at least somewhat important for the U.S. to expand the use of renewable energy.
Thumbs up to Governor Dunleavy for taking the first step to break the gridlock.
AKHEADLAMP hopes the other waring factions will be sincere in their efforts to work together.
Gov. Dunleavy calls lawmakers to Juneau in bid to end Alaska budget deadlock
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, July 17, 2019
Care About the Planet? Don’t Ban Fracking.
Drew Johnson, Real Clear Energy, July 9, 2019
Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently signed a permanent statewide ban on fracking, the drilling technique that has made America the world’s top producer of natural gas. And Senator Bernie Sanders just called for a nationwide fracking ban. Both these 2020 presidential candidates believe that banning fracking will help fight climate change. They’re dead wrong. Fracking actually drives down carbon emissions by unlocking new stores of natural gas — the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Rather than ban fracking, pragmatic environmentalists ought to embrace it. Fracking enables energy companies to tap natural gas reserves in underground shale rock formations. Our natural gas output has spiked 50 percent since 1990.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announces seizure of oil tanker accused of smuggling fuel in Strait of Hormuz
Liz Sly, The Washington Post, July 18, 2019
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has seized a foreign tanker and 12 crew members accused of smuggling Iranian fuel in the Strait of Hormuz, adding to tensions in the strategic waterway, according to reports carried by Iranian state media on Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether the seized tanker was the same as a vessel that Iran said it had rescued. The tanker, based in the United Arab Emirates, was last tracked last week in the narrow strait — the route for a significant percentage of the world’s tanker traffic from the Persian Gulf. The seizure is the latest twist in a series of incidents involving ships and tankers in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf that have sent tensions soaring between the United States and Iran.
U.S., China will be world’s biggest LNG exporter and importer in 2024: IEA
Reuters, July 16, 2019
The United States and China will become the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters and importers, respectively, in five years, according to projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA). U.S. LNG exports are expected to rocket to over 100 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2024, dislodging current market leaders Australia and Qatar, Jean-Baptiste Dubreuil, senior natural gas analyst at IEA, said on Tuesday. He was speaking at a presentation sponsored by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs Center on Global Energy Policy in New York. China’s LNG imports, meanwhile, are expected to surge to over 100 bcm in 2024, topping those of current world leader Japan. Japan’s LNG imports have mostly declined since peaking in 2014 as utilities restart some nuclear plants shut for mandatory safety inspections and testing after an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.
Offshore Oil Is Crucial for U.S. Security
Jim Webb & Jim Nicholson, The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2019
Offshore oil exploration has become the strategic bull’s-eye of America’s energy debate. A recent federal court decision blocked the Trump administration’s reversal of President Obama’s late-term executive order that withdrew certain areas in Alaska from offshore oil exploration. The court’s decision, based on a tortured interpretation of a 1953 law, will likely be reversed on appeal. But for now it has halted a renewal of offshore oil exploration. At the same time, bills are pending in Congress that could stop expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration off the East, West, Gulf and Alaskan coasts. As much as 94% of the Outer Continental Shelf has been off-limits to oil and natural gas leasing since 1984, making it difficult even to evaluate the extent of resources there through seismic research. Trends in global offshore exploration suggest these resources are vast. Americans should think hard about whether such draconian restrictions are needed—and about the costs in terms of economic and national security. Over the past nine years the U.S. oil-and-gas industry has implemented advanced exploration technology, sophisticated production methods, better safety procedures and a program of close cooperation with the government.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BOOTING 84% OF BLM’S STAFF OUT OF DC NEXT YEAR: The Trump administration is shifting most of the Bureau of Land Management’s personnel in its Washington, D.C. headquarters out west by the end of next year.
Joe Balash, assistant secretary of the Interior Department, sent a 17-page letter to lawmakers on Tuesday outlining the reorganization. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt confirmed the plans in a statement, saying moving staff to western states, where most federal lands are located, “is not only a better management system, it is beneficial to the interest of the American public in these communities, cities, counties, and states.”
Over 80% of the agency’s D.C. staff will be relocated to further west to states such as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Twenty-seven management positions will be moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, to build a second agency headquarters. Dozens of other employees will begin reporting to state managers instead of officials in Washington, D.C.
BLM employees pushed back against the plan in a briefing given by department heads on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. Several employees raised questions on the impact on families that have other ties to the Washington area, such as a spouse with another career.
While Republican lawmakers in western states complimented the move, Democrats criticized the plan.
“This administration has been handing over public lands to fossil fuel companies at record speed, and this move is part of that agenda,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona.
Our Take: Not surprising that government employees claim this is a bad move. Here’s what the folks from ConserveAmerica think: “Relocating BLM closer to the people most affected by the agency’s decisions is a sensible solution and has been something Westerners have long sought. More than 90 percent of the nearly 245 million acres BLM manages is west of the Mississippi River. It doesn’t make sense for the bureau to be stuck in the swamp of Washington, D.C. Critics of the move want to make a political issue out of it, but they are missing the bigger benefits. The people of Colorado – and the West in general – are some of America’s best stewards. They live and work on the land every day and therefore have the greatest incentive to care for it. It’s their backyard.”
UAE-based oil tanker disappears in Iranian waters in the Strait of Hormuz
Erin Cunningham, The Washington Post, July 16, 2019
An oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates is missing after it stopped in Iranian waters three days ago and switched off its transponder, raising concerns that it may have been seized by Iran amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf. Shipping tracking data showed that the Panama-flagged Riah stopped transmitting its position late Saturday when it was off the coast of Iran’s Qeshm Island in the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has a base. Data showed that the ship was on its way to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates before diverting sharply and slowing to a halt in Iranian territorial waters. An Emirati official denied that the tanker has links to the UAE, saying that the ship is “neither UAE owned nor operated” and “does not carry Emirati personnel.”
Can hydrogen save oil companies from climate shift?
James Osborne, The Houston Chronicle, July 15, 2019
Hydrogen as a source of energy is a tough sell. Sixteen years after former president George W. Bush forecast that the age of the hydrogen car was upon us, the world is still waiting. But facing a market clamoring for carbon-free forms of energy, some within the energy sector are wondering whether hydrogen might hold promise after all. The Norwegian oil giant Equinor is exploring the possibility of converting some of the company’s huge reserves of natural gas into hydrogen as a means to reduce its carbon emissions (natural gas is composed of hydrogen and carbon). But instead of just using to power fuel cells in cars – as Bush hoped — Equinor, which has a large presence in Houston, is looking at using hydrogen to fuel power plants and heat homes or as a feed stock for carbon-free liquid fuels. “We don’t need hydrogen cars because electric cars are so superior,” said Steiner Eikaas, an Equinor vice president. “Where we need it is heavy sectors. With small adjustments gas powered plants can burn hydrogen.”
Another European oil major, Royal Dutch Shell, has partnered with Toyota to supply hydrogen-fueled tractor trailers at the Port of Los Angeles. And companies including the German industrial conglomerate Siemens, the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi and utility Southern California Gas, and are working on using the excess power from wind and solar farms to produce hydrogen by separating it from water (H20) through a process known as electrolysis.
Chevron aims for lowest-emission LNG plant in world with new electric plan
Natalie Obiko Pearson, Bloomberg, July 15, 2019
Chevron Corp. is seeking approval to modify its plans for a liquefied natural gas export facility on Canada’s Pacific Coast to an all-electric design that it says will result in the lowest greenhouse-gas emissions per ton of LNG of any large project in the world. Chevron and its partner Woodside Petroleum Ltd. earlier this year had announced they’d applied to expand the capacity of their LNG project in Kitimat, British Columbia, by as much as 80 per cent to 18 million metric tons a year. That triggered a new federal screening of the project that’s expected to “commence shortly,” according to a July 8 letter filed by Chevron to the provincial environmental assessment office. As part of the fresh round of approvals sought, the project is proposing to become an “all-electric plant” powered by hydroelectricity, allowing expanded capacity without the corresponding increase in emissions of a traditional LNG facility, the letter said.
Alaska is fully engaged in transboundary water, mining issues
Corri Feige, Doug Vincent-Lang, Jason Brune, Anchorage Daily News, July 14, 2019
As leaders of Alaska’s state resource agencies, we want to assure everyone who shares our desire for healthy lands, waters, fish and economies that Alaska remains committed to maintaining both high water quality standards and responsible mineral development in the transboundary waters between Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Both state and federal legislators have expressed concerns about this issue recently, some by writing to encourage Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy to keep Alaska involved with British Columbia’s provincial government on transboundary issues, under a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation, or MOU, signed by former Gov. Bill Walker and former British Columbia Premier Christy Clark in 2015.
Wheeler: Obscure air provision behind Paris withdrawal
Jean Chemnick, E & E News, Climatewire, July 15, 2019
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler may have offered some new information last week about the legal arguments behind President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. In a call with reporters last Monday ahead of Trump’s White House environment speech, the administrator told reporters that the United States couldn’t have stayed in Paris because doing so would have jeopardized Trump’s deregulatory agenda. That’s not necessarily a new line from the administration; Wheeler’s predecessor, Scott Pruitt, and then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, top administration agitators for leaving the deal, debuted it in meetings before the president announced plans to leave Paris in June 2017. Trump allies on Capitol Hill and in agencies have been using it ever since.
But Wheeler’s explanation was different. When a reporter asked whether Trump still sought to “renegotiate” Paris, Wheeler mentioned a Clean Air Act provision that has been used once in the law’s 40-year history. He said it would have made Trump’s domestic agenda impossible if the United States stayed in the deal. “Another aspect that a lot of people gloss over is that, under the Clean Air Act — I believe it’s Section 115 of the Clean Air Act — if we enter into an international treaty, such as the Paris climate accord — if we fail to meet our targets, those are enforceable under our domestic laws,” Wheeler said. “Most other countries who are signatories to the Paris climate accord don’t have that same constraint.”
The ‘biggest change in oil market history’ is less than six months away
Sam Meredith, CNBC, July 15, 2019
- On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will enforce new emissions standards designed to significantly curb pollution produced by the world’s ships.
- “It is the biggest change in oil market history,” Steve Sawyer, senior analyst at energy consultant Facts Global Energy, told CNBC.
- The forthcoming measures are widely expected to create an oversupply of high-sulfur fuel oil while sparking demand for IMO-compliant products.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
AFTER ONE-YEAR SPIKE, CARBON EMISSIONS TO FALL DUE TO COAL DECLINE: U.S. carbon emissions from energy production will fall in 2019 after spiking last year, mostly because of a continued decrease in coal consumption.
Emissions will decline 2.2% in 2019, after rising 2.7% in 2018, according to a report Monday morning from the Energy Information Administration.
EIA projects that carbon emissions from coal will decrease by 169 million metric tons in 2019, the largest decrease in emissions from coal since 2015. However, carbon emissions from natural gas will increase this year by 53 million metric tons as gas continues to replace coal as the most used electricity source. The increase in carbon emissions from gas is more than offset by declines in emissions from coal — gas emits half the amount of carbon as coal.