News of the Day:
Icy, Remote Alaska Has an Edge in Covid Vaccination
Bailey Berg, Bloomberg City Lab, February 9, 2021
The largest, least-populated U.S. state might lack transportation infrastructure, but so far, Alaska has managed to mount the nation’s most effective inoculation campaign.
Fracking Ramps Back Up As Crude Oil Becomes A Hot Commodity Again
David Blackmon, Forbes, February 9, 2021
The slow but steady growth seen by the U.S. oil and gas industry throughout the final four months of 2020 intensified in January, as oil prices saw double-digit increases.
Since January 1, the price for West Texas Intermediate has risen from $48.52 to over $58 as of this writing on February 9, a gain of more than 20%. According to Otavio Costa, a portfolio manager at Crescat, this is the strongest year-to-date performance for crude oil prices in the last 30 years.
The stronger price scenario has, as it generally does, led to rising numbers of active drilling rigs and frac spreads in the U.S., as upstream companies redirect more capital spending to their drilling programs. Last week, Baker Hughes BHI -1.2%reported that its rig count rose for the 11th straight week, and 22nd of the last 23 weeks. The total number of active oil and gas rigs in the U.S. as of last Friday is now 392—or 398 less than the same week last year.
Thus, the industry has now recovered to almost half the active rigs of a year ago, but that is more than twice the number of rigs that were active as of September 1, 2020. That’s an obvious sign of recovery, and the same is true in the Primary Vision count of active frac spreads currently working. That count as of Feb. 5 sat at 175 active fracking crews and equipment arrays working in the U.S., up from 85 as of Sept. 1, but 45% below the level of a year ago.
So, while this is certainly not yet a return the boom times of 2017-2019, there is no question the industry has embarked on a strengthening recovery over the last 5 months.
Coalition promotes Rockies’ motherlode of natural gas as source for overseas markets
Judith Kohler, The Denver Post, February 8, 2021
Group faces headwinds of access to markets, low gas prices and climate change concerns.
An organization formed to develop international markets for the Rockies’ abundant natural gas is forging ahead despite low prices and setbacks in building an export terminal on the Oregon coast that would connect the region to overseas buyers.
The Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative just named its first board of directors. It will soon release a report looking at how much greenhouse-gas emissions could be reduced if natural gas produced in the Rockies replaced coal-fired electricity in other countries.
Andrew Browning, Western States’ president, and Duane Zavadil, a board member and formerly an executive with the Bill Barrett Corp., acknowledge that the headwinds facing the group are strong. Natural gas prices remain low. Demand for oil and gas that plunged when the pandemic hit has risen but is not expected to reach 2019 levels until 2029, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Copper price hits eight year high on US stimulus hopes
Mining.Com, February 9, 2021
Copper prices rose again on Tuesday with investors weighing prospects for a fast-tracked stimulus package in the US.
On the Comex market, copper for delivery in March advanced 1.5% to $3.723 a pound. If it closes at these levels it would be the highest since 2013.
The metal has rallied on hopes that economic stimulus in the US will further boost demand and underpinned by decade low China stocks.
House Democrats on Monday released the first draft text for key pieces of legislation that will comprise President Joe Biden’s covid-19 relief bill. Democrats are forging ahead with plans to bump the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and make another round of stimulus payments. Billions of dollars are planned for airline staff, airports, and trains.
Stocks of copper across the LME, Comex and ShFE markets are at multi-year lows.
“Inventories are still quite low on exchanges. That gives good indication that manufacturing demand for copper is present and that its not just a speculative story,” Nitesh Shah, an analyst at investment manager WisdomTree, told Reuters.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
HANDLING JOBS QUESTIONS: The Biden administration is struggling to get out of its own way as it tries to make the case that its clean energy and infrastructure spending agenda will create new jobs that can replace lost work in the fossil fuel industry.
A pointed exchange at yesterday’s White House press briefing demonstrates how the Biden team has not developed a coherent response to questions, including from union leaders who endorsed him, about how his early move to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline could cost jobs. The Laborers’ International Union of North America has said the Keystone decision will cost 1,000 existing union jobs and 10,000 projected temporary construction jobs (it would support much fewer permanent jobs).
“When it is and where it is that they can go for their green job?” Peter Doocy of Fox News asked press secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki responded sarcastically to a line of questioning that she surely should be anticipating.
“Well, I’d certainly welcome you to present your data of all the thousands and thousands of people who won’t be getting a green job,” Psaki said. “Maybe next time you’re here, you can present that.”
She went on to repeat the Biden team mantra that his forthcoming plan to investment in infrastructure will create “good-paying union jobs” and “advance our climate and clean energy goals.”
Whether those new jobs are created or not, Psaki and other Biden officials such as John Kerry who have stumbled over similar questions risk undercutting the buy-in for their agenda if they dismiss the challenge of matching lost fossil fuel jobs with new ones created in clean energy.
Build the Electric Vehicle Supply Chain From the Mine Up
Rich Nolan, Real Clear Energy, February 8, 2021
In a span of just 24 hours, two major announcements signaled a turning point for electric vehicles (EVs). First, President Biden announced that the entire federal vehicle fleet – some 650,000 cars and trucks – would be moving to made-in-America EVs. A day later, General Motors announced its intention to stop producing combustion-engine cars by 2035. The pivot to EVs has become a sprint.
This moment offers both the potential for significant progress in reducing emissions and the opportunity for the U.S. to win the accelerating race for the future of the auto industry and the millions of jobs it supports. But if we don’t get serious about building the domestic-mineral supply chain to support it, it’s a race we could lose.
Those who assume that the U.S. is ahead in the pivot to EVs should pay closer attention. GM’s ambitions, the impending arrival of EV newcomers like Rivian, and the onward march of Tesla all camouflage an undeniable reality: the EV future is being shaped and built in China.
Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, a consultancy focused on the EV supply chain, reported that of the world’s 142 battery mega factories in the pipeline, 107 will call China home; a startling 53 are already active and in production. Just nine are in the pipeline for the U.S.
Battery production could prove to be an irresistible magnet for the global auto industry, and China is counting on it. China’s dominance of lithium-ion battery production is a direct result of a strategic bet on the mineral supply chain. From mining to refining of the essential inputs of lithium-ion batteries – lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite – China is the unrivaled leader.
Catching up to China will mean building an EV supply-chain strategy from the mine up. The U.S. has the resources to do it. What we need now is a commitment to prioritize the production and a mines-to-markets strategy that enables us to build infrastructure for the electrification of transportation that will support American industry and millions of American workers.