NEWS OF THE DAY:
For US Arctic coordinator, Alaska trip shows importance of local voices in international affairs
Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today, June 22,2021
For James DeHart, the U.S. State Department’s Arctic coordinator, a whirlwind tour of Alaska in earlier this month created some important impressions that will help inform the Biden administration’s policies.
DeHart spent about a week traveling the state from Seward on the Gulf of Alaska coast to Point Barrow, the northernmost point of land in the U.S. It was his first official trip to Alaska in his new role — he was appointed by former President Trump in September — and his first trip to the U.S. Arctic.
Chief among the lessons learned, he said, is the importance of keeping local people involved in the international Arctic policies and decisions. That means working with Alaska and Alaska constituencies — including local government officials, tribes, Native corporations, and state leaders — as advisers and partners in cross-border relations, he said.
“Our diplomacy has to be informed by views on the local level, on the subnational level,” he said in an interview on his last day in Alaska.
The exchanges go both ways, he said. “It’s not just our interaction with people in Alaska. It’s how can Alaska connect to our partners overseas,” he said. There are common challenges and opportunities with places like Greenland and Arctic Canada, he said.
His trip left some strong impressions about life and work in Alaska, he said.
A day’s travel delay in Utqiagvik, where fog grounded air travel, was “a good education” about Alaska life, he said. So was a visit to the Utqiagvik grocery store, where a bottle of orange juice was priced at about $13.
A visit to the University of Alaska Fairbanks equipped him with information about the “fantastic” Arctic research happening there — a lot of its part of international collaborations coordinated through the eight-nation Arctic Council.
“Our new administration is very committed to scientific integrity,” he said. “That applies to the Arctic. The level of science that takes place in the region is virtually the gold standard, I think, and really important when you consider what’s happening with climate.”
A tour of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility in Fairbanks and to dramatically retreating Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward gave him an up-close look at the impacts of climate change.
For DeHart, the Arctic coordinator position is the latest in a diplomatic career that has sent him to different corners of the world — notably to Afghanistan, where he was posted twice.
His position is not that of an Arctic ambassador. The U.S. has never formally had such a position, despite efforts in Congress over the years to create it, most recently a bill introduced in May.
Rather, DeHart said, his position is similar to that held by former Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp in the Obama administration. He combines outward-facing diplomatic duties on the international stage with management duties inside the U.S. government.
Internally, agency responsibilities for Arctic work vary widely, including science, environmental protection, economic development, marine safety, and national defense, among other subjects.
“We need to have a single comprehensive approach that combines all of these efforts together. That’s where our coordination office comes in,” he said.
Accordingly, his Alaska trip included visits to military sites and to the Department of Energy’s Arctic Energy Office in Fairbanks.
Internationally, U.S. Arctic policies can, in addition to addressing concerns like climate change, help bring some calm to what is otherwise a turbulent relationship with Russia.
The two countries, though adversaries in many areas, can find common ground in the matters taken up by the Arctic Council, where Russia launched its two-year chairmanship at the end of the Reykjavik ministerial meeting in May, said DeHart.
“It’s one of the rare venues now where the U.S. and Russia together with other Arctic Council partners can cooperate and work together constructively.”
BP to stick with oil and gas for decades, CEO Looney says
Ron Bousson, Reuters, June 22, 2021
- Looney tells Reuters conference BP will benefit from oil rally
- BP’s transition strategy will evolve over time, he says
- GRAPHIC: BP’s energy transition spending https://tmsnrt.rs/30Snf4Y
LONDON, June 22 (Reuters) – BP (BP.L) will continue producing hydrocarbons for decades to come and will benefit from rising oil prices even as it reduces output as part of its shift to low-carbon energy, Chief Executive Bernard Looney told Reuters on Tuesday.
The recent rally in crude prices, which climbed on Tuesday to a more than two-year high above $75 a barrel, is likely to continue, Looney said in an interview at the Reuters Events: Global Energy Transition conference.
“There’s a very strong possibility that these prices will sustain over the coming years, and if they do, that’s very good for our strategy.”
Higher oil prices mean BP will be able to raise more cash from selling assets that will go towards building its renewables and low-carbon business, as well as returning money to shareholders via share buybacks, he said. read more
The 50-year-old Irishman brushed aside investor concerns that BP might miss out on the rally because of its plan to slash oil output by 40% and grow its renewables output 20-fold by 2030 as part of its energy transition.
“As people understand we’re going to be in the hydrocarbons business for decades to come, that concern has gone away a little bit,” Looney said.
“We want to run the best hydrocarbons business possible. We don’t want to run the biggest hydrocarbons business possible.”
BP’s shares hit their lowest since the mid-1990s late last year, a bigger drop than any of its rivals, amid falling oil prices and investor concerns over its strategy.
They have recovered strongly so far this year but are still around 30% below their pre-COVID-19 crisis levels.
“What we offer investors is a stable, resilient dividend,” Looney said. “We’re going to grow value from this company over the next five years.”
“We’re going to offer you a sustainable investment proposition that I believe will grow value,” he added.
Looney said BP’s energy transition will continue to evolve over time but added that he feels “at a good place” at the moment, even as investor pressure mounts on oil companies to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have leaned into this as hard as we can,” Looney said. “We will continue to evolve the strategy; we will continue to evolve our targets. They will undoubtedly get bolder over time.”
How Vladimir Putin uses natural gas to exert Russian influence and punish his enemies
Lena Surzhko Harned, Yahoo, June 23, 2021
The recent U.S.-Russia summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin suggests that a controversial Russian natural gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, is a done deal.
If completed as planned by the end of this year, Nord Stream 2 will convey 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea and thence to the rest of Europe. It is expected to bring US$3.2 billion to Russia annually.
Construction had been halted for over a year by U.S. sanctions passed in 2019 on the pipeline’s construction and financing. Sanctions were later expanded in 2020. Some Russia experts expected those sanctions to be a bargaining chip for Biden at the recent Geneva summit to pressure Putin over Russian occupation of territories in Ukraine and Georgia; support for Belarus’ dictatorial regime; violation of human rights within Russia; and the poisoning, jailing and outlawing of political opposition.
The pipeline project is a joint venture between a handful of European gas companies and Russian giant Gazprom, a majority state-owned company that is the largest gas supplier in the world. For Putin, the pipeline is an opportunity to increase his influence in Europe by deepening the region’s dependence on Russian energy.
Natural gas has been the bedrock of Putin’s power both domestically and internationally for decades. Nord Stream 2 gives the Russian leader a new direct and powerful line of control in Western Europe.
How Putin controls Russian oil
Since taking office in 2000, Putin began seizing control of the Russian gas and oil industry. He renationalized Gazprom, the state oil company that had been privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Scholarly research has demonstrated that regaining government control over the gas and oil industry contributed to consolidation of authoritarianism in Russia. And it coincided with crackdowns on Putin’s political opposition.
In 2003 Mikhail Khodorkovsky, owner of the Yukos oil company and a vocal critic of Putin’s growing authoritarianism, became the regime’s first famous political prisoner, after he was arrested at gunpoint and imprisoned for 10 years for tax evasion. Yukos was eventually seized by the government and absorbed into the state-owned companies.
By the end of his first term in office in 2004, Putin’s government had significant control over oil and gas production in Russia, which is the one of largest producers and exporters in the world. Proceeds collected from oil and gas sales allowed Putin to pay for his domestic agenda and boost military spending. It also gave him extraordinary leverage over neighboring countries that relied on Russia for their energy needs.
For example, in 2006 and 2009, when the Ukrainian government adopted more pro-Western policies and upset the Kremlin, Russia outright shut off the country’s gas supply – and by extension, shut off the gas of countries down the supply line in Central and Western Europe, including Germany.
Russia versus Europe
As a direct line of supply from Russia to Europe, Nord Stream 2 could avoid such problems for Western Europe in the future. But it also opens Western Europe to the same kind of direct Russian pressure it has used to punish Ukraine. So, the proposed pipeline has been divisive.
Nord Stream 2 has already produced a rift between NATO allies, even before its completion.
Sweden, Poland and the Baltic countries, for example, have all raised concerns, citing environmental problems related to construction and maintenance of the pipeline. They worry that Russia will use its new pipeline infrastructure to increase its military naval presence in the Baltic Sea. That would increase Russia’s intelligence-gathering capacity.
Further “crumbling NATO,” as Putin puts it – sowing divisions in the alliance – would be a win for his regime.
The Russian leader sees NATO, which he calls a Cold War relic, as the greatest threat to Russian security. Disunity in Europe allows Russia to continue pursuing political repression of its own citizens and territorial aggression against neighboring nations with less foreign interference.
For Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 presents both a security and financial threat.
Ukraine largely stopped buying gas from Russia in 2015 following Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and support for a still-deadly Russian-sponsored separatist war in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine.
Russian military vehicles lined up on the road for military drills.
However, Ukraine still collects up to US$3 billion in annual fees because Russian gas currently runs through a pipeline in Ukrainian territory to get to Europe.
Nord Stream 2 will deprive Ukraine of this income. According to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, the money lost in gas transit fees will mean Ukraine will have “nothing to pay for the Ukrainian army” to defend Ukraine from further Russian aggression.
In April 2021, observers documented a build-up of Russian military at Ukraine’s border with Russia, as well as in the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Russian military pulled back after a few weeks, but there is evidence that some 80,000 Russian troops remain near Ukraine, along with military equipment, including trucks and armored vehicles.
Zelensky says the pipeline has become a “real weapon” against Ukraine. In Kyiv, fears are that once Russia stops relying on Ukraine for transit to Europe, Putin will begin to exert more pressure on the Ukrainian government over the warring Donbas region or resume military aggression.
The risk may not be worth the reward of cheaper gas prices for European consumers. The economic boost that Russia will likely receive from capturing the European gas market will further enrich Putin’s kleptocratic regime – and, history shows, finance his undemocratic projects in Eastern Europe and beyond.
Copper supply needs to double by 2050, Glencore CEO says
Mining.Com, June 22, 2021
Glencore Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg said on Tuesday that a supply gap was growing in the metals necessary for the world to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but he stopped short of predicting a so-called super cycle.
Glasenberg said at the Qatar Economic Forum that copper supplies needed to increase by one million tonnes a year until 2050 to meet an expected demand of 60 million tonnes.Top of Form
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“Today, the world consumes 30 million tonnes of copper per year and by the year 2050, following this trajectory, we’ve got to produce 60 million tonnes of copper per year,” he said.
“If you look at the historical past 10 years, we’ve only added 500,000 tonnes per year … Do we have the projects? I don’t think so. I think it will be extremely difficult.”
Shares of many mining companies have doubled in the past year, as policy support measures in advanced economies in response to the covid-19 pandemic stoked inflation.
Commodities serve as a hedge against inflation, meaning their prices are expected to stay strong.
At the same time, the transition to a low-carbon economy and channeling of stimulus funds into infrastructure is generating demand for raw materials.
Demand for copper is rising for use in renewable energy projects and electric vehicles. Prices hit a record high above $10,000 a tonne in May, before falling about $1,500 a tonne.
The nickel and cobalt markets are facing similar supply deficits over the next few decades. Glasenberg said nickel supplies needed to grow by an extra 250,000 tonnes a year compared with a historic rate of just 100,000 tonnes.
He projected annual nickel demand to rise to 9.2 million tonnes from the current 2.5 million tonnes.
Alaska senator urges Biden, Congress to ditch Stone-Manning
Scott Streater, E & E News, June 22, 2021
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan passionately lobbied his fellow lawmakers on the Senate floor this week to reject Tracy Stone-Manning as director of the Bureau of Land Management and urged President Biden to pull her nomination.
Saying that President Biden “screwed up here” by nominating Stone-Manning, Sullivan called her “a far-left, extreme, violent environmental nominee.”
Sullivan based that opinion on Stone-Manning’s past work for the controversial environmental group Earth First, coupled with her involvement in a tree-spiking criminal case in which she was granted legal immunity to testify against two fellow environmentalists who outfitted hundreds of trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest with metal objects to block a logging sale.
Stone-Manning sent a letter to the Forest Service in 1989 that was written by one of the tree-spiking suspects warning the service that the trees had been rigged with the metal spikes. But she never contacted the service directly and did not admit to sending the letter until years later.
“Here is something that should be very simple for all of us. No matter how young, no matter how naive, the director of the Bureau of Land Management for the United States of America should not — and I repeat, should not — have ever been involved in ecoterrorism,” Sullivan said, according to a transcript of his Senate speech yesterday. “That is simply unacceptable, and the president of the United States should get that, and certainly every U.S. senator should get that.”
So far, Senate Democrats have stood firm in support of Stone-Manning.
But Sullivan cited comments made to E&E News and other media outlets by Bob Abbey, BLM’s Senate-confirmed director during President Obama’s first term in office. Abbey said unanswered questions surrounding Stone-Manning’s involvement in the tree-spiking incident are enough to disqualify her from leading the bureau (Greenwire, June 21).
“The director of BLM from the Obama-Biden administration just yesterday made a statement saying that, if these allegations are true, which they are, then he firmly believes that her nomination should be withdrawn by the president,” Sullivan said. “That is Mr. Bob Abbey. So, this is a serious issue, and it is a bipartisan issue.”
He added, “I didn’t agree with Bob Abbey on much when he was the head of BLM under the Obama-Biden administration, but I certainly agree with him about Tracy Stone-Manning, and I believe the president of the United States should withdraw her name from further consideration.”
Sullivan said he’s never before called upon the president to withdraw a nominee.
Last fall, Democrats, led by former Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, commandeered the Senate floor for nearly an hour to demand former President Trump remove William Perry Pendley as the top BLM official (E&E Daily, Sept. 16, 2020).
Trump had nominated Pendley, a conservative lawyer, for the Senate-confirmed post, but withdrew the nomination after stiff resistance from Democrats and many other critics of Pendley, who had advocated in the past for the sale of federal lands.
Sullivan said Biden needs to do the same thing with Stone-Manning.
“To the president of the United States: Respectfully, sir, you need to withdraw this nomination,” he said.
“To my colleagues on the Senate floor here: Respectfully to all of you, if the president doesn’t take this commonsense action, we need to decisively reject this nomination when it comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”
House Republicans launch conservative climate caucus
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, June 23, 2021
A group of nearly 40 House Republicans is launching a Conservative Climate Caucus on Wednesday.
The initiative, led by Rep. John Curtis of Utah, marks the first time that Republicans have organized a group explicitly to address climate change.
Members include Reps. Garret Graves of Louisiana, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Michael McCaul of Texas, Lee Zeldin of New York, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and more.
An existing bicameral Republican Roosevelt Conservation Caucus lists public land access, water quality, and ocean pollution among its priorities and is focused more on enhancing the environmental profile of the GOP.
The new climate caucus, however, aims to go beyond messaging and “educate House Republicans on climate policies and legislation consistent with conservative values,” according to a one-page summary shared by Curtis’s office.
Members of the group acknowledge “the climate is changing” and that human industrial activity has contributed to global warming, the summary reads.
Its creation comes after Curtis organized a summit in February attended by 25 House Republicans, reported exclusively by the Washington Examiner, in which members discussed how to position themselves to address climate change in the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Congressional Republicans have sought to overhaul their party’s climate change platform and messaging to compete with Democrats and the Biden administration. House Republicans are also responding to polls over the last few years that have shown the party is vulnerable among young and suburban voters who are concerned about the environment and climate change.
Curtis is among the Republicans who worked with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last year to introduce an agenda to address climate change that was focused on promoting innovation in clean energy technologies, including carbon capture for fossil fuel plants and smaller nuclear reactors.
In April, McCarthy organized a three-day House Republican forum to present their legislative ideas on addressing climate change and counter a climate summit event that President Joe Biden hosted on Earth Day with top greenhouse-gas-emitting countries.
Republicans on the new conservative caucus say they intend to contrast their proposals with “radical progressive” climate policies, such as pricing carbon or mandating clean electricity use.
Democratic critics, however, say the Republican approach of promoting clean energy in private sector innovation falls short of what’s needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
Caucus Republicans say fossil fuels, the main contributor to climate change, “can and should be a major part of the global solution,” as long as “innovative technologies” are used to capture or limit their emissions.