News of the Day:
Our village is not a national monument
Matthew Rexford, Anchorage Daily News, April 11, 2021
My village of Kaktovik is the only community in ANWR and is on the coastal plain, where drilling would occur. Naturally, the Kaktovik Iñupiat stand to be affected the most by drilling decisions in our backyard, including on our land. Despite being the primary stakeholders and with the future of our community hanging in the balance, no one seems interested in what we think about oil development in ANWR. No human rights groups are lining up to defend our sovereignty over the land. The truth is, the vast majority of Americans — or even Alaskans, for that matter — may not even know we exist. That’s not a mistake or coincidence.
Oil prices rise on vaccine progress and reports of attack on Saudi oil facility
Myra P. Saefong, Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch, April 12, 2021
Oil futures headed higher on Monday, as reports that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi oil facility lifted tensions in the oil-rich Middle East.
“News of another Houthi attack on a Saudi oil facility during a weekend where geopolitical risk factors for oil are rising,” helped oil prices snap back from last week’s losses, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group.
The Houthi movement said Monday that it fired drones and ballistic missiles at targets in Saudi Arabia, including some Saudi Aramco facilities, Reuters reported, adding that there was no confirmation from the Saudis.
Oil also saw support from sizable progress in European efforts to vaccinate against COVID-19, which offset some pressure from a global rise in cases of the virus.
Oil is “finally getting some good news from Europe regarding the vaccination programs,” with Germany bringing it “up to more than 12 million jabs, up by a quarter on the week,” said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, a market update.
Upbeat comments on the economy from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, meanwhile, boosted prospects for a rise in demand for energy.
Powell described the U.S.’s current recovery from COVID as at an “inflection point” and projected a strong rebound in coming months, speaking on a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday.
Powell’s “positive comments on the U.S. economy…ahead of [the] key U.S. driving season help to reassure the outlook for oil demand,” balancing concerns about the continued spread of COVID-19 in some regions, said Innes.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
BIDEN BREAKS WITH GREENS ON BY PUNTING ON DAPL: The Biden administration has decided not to order the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline to shut down while it completes an environmental review, dealing a blow to green groups and Native American tribes who had sought to stop it from operating, Josh reported Friday.
Ben Shifman, an attorney for the Justice Department, told U.S. District Judge Brian Boasberg that the federal government retains the authority to shut down the pipeline at any time while the Army Corps of Engineers finishes a new environmental review, which he said would be complete by March 2022. But environmental and tribal groups had been pressing for quicker action, arguing Dakota Access is operating illegally because federal courts found a Trump administration environmental review permitting the pipeline to be deficient.
“It’s a shame to see the Biden administration throw away such a clear opportunity to stand up for Indigenous rights and environmental justice,” Collin Rees, a senior campaigner with Oil Change U.S., told Josh. “Allowing DAPL’s continued operation maintains the Trump status quo.”
A decision to force a shutdown of Dakota Access — which has been carrying oil for more than three years from North Dakota to Illinois — would have been unprecedented because the pipeline is already operating, unlike Keystone XL, which Biden canceled on his first day in office.
Bitcoin mining in China could soon generate as much carbon emissions as some European countries
Alexis Beneveniste, CNN, April 9, 2021
Bitcoin’s soaring popularity could have a long-lasting negative effect on the environment.
Cryptocurrency mining requires significant computer power and electricity, and the increase in bitcoin purchases leaves behind a hefty carbon footprint.
But just how much is bitcoin mining contributing to global warming?
In China alone, bitcoin is projected to generate more than 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions by the time the technology’s energy consumption peaks in 2024, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
That amount of greenhouse gases would have surpassedthe total annual emissions output from the Czech Republic and Qatar in 2016. The bitcoin blockchain could consume as much energy per year as small to medium-sized countries such as Denmark, Ireland or Bangladesh, according to research from Sinan Kufeogl, civil engineering research associate at the University of Cambridge.
As bitcoin has grown in popularity, China has become a mecca for the technology. If China’s bitcoin industry were a country, its total energy consumption would have ranked 12th globally in 2016, ahead of major economies like Italy and Saudi Arabia, according to the study. With specialized hardware and cheap electricity readily available, the country now accounts for more than 75% of the bitcoin network’s hashing power — the power a computer or hardware uses to run and solve algorithms that generate new cryptocurrencysums and allow transactions between them.
“Since the bitcoin mining industry is so new, it has not been properly accounted for and regulated around the world,” Shouyang Wang, a co-author of the study and professor at Chinese Academy of Sciences, told CNN Business.
Bitcoin mining hardware has evolved as the cryptocurrency’s popularity has increased overtime. At its inception, bitcoin mining went through a basic Central Processing Unit (CPU) on a general-purpose computer, the study’s authors say.
The process then evolved and shifted to Graphic Processing Units (GPUs), which offered more power, higher hash rates and ultimately led to more energy consumption. Eventually, Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) were introduced to optimize the mining-related calculations.
Cryptocurrency mining hardware is constantly running, which also increases energy consumption. Between January 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018, the mining operations for four major cryptocurrencies released up to an estimated 13 million metric tons of carbondioxide, according to a separate study in the research journal Nature Sustainability.
The growth of these emissions could have massive implications for the entire planet.
China is a key signatory of the Paris Agreement and has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060. But the country remains the world’s largest contributor of greenhouse gases, and the study’s authors say bitcoin mining could compromise the country’s attempts at emissions reductions.
“It is important to provide miners with incentives to move their operations to clean-energy regions,” Wang said. “That is why building and upgrading the clean-energy power generation facilities to ensure consistent electricity generation is important.”
Democrats and Republicans stay quiet as lone legal challenge advances against Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, April 11, 2021
When Maine’s pioneering attempt to install ranked-choice voting was met with a flurry of lawsuits, Alaskans expected the same thing after voters here approved a sweeping election-reform law in November.
So far, that hasn’t happened. Only a single lawsuit has been filed in state court to block implementation of the state’s new election system, approved as Ballot Measure 2, and no challenges have been filed in federal court.
Alaska’s first election under the new system is more than a year away, but one candidate has already begun a campaign to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Until that lawsuit is resolved, voters and candidates won’t know the rules for the state’s election.
The state’s Republican and Democratic parties have stayed out of the legal fight, and experts suggest that internal party politics and the expense of a lawsuit have kept them away. The lone case was brought by the chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party and a Libertarian candidate for the state Legislature.
“I would have expected by now to pick up two, three, four, well-financed parties attacking this thing. And you can see, and I can see, it hasn’t happened,” said Scott Kendall, an attorney who wrote the measure and is now defending it in court.
“I was totally surprised,” said Anchorage attorney Ken Jacobus, who is representing the plaintiffs and has argued that parts of the measure conflict with the Alaska Constitution.
Why carbon pricing is unlikely to play a big role in climate talks
Ben Geman, Axios, April 12, 2021
The problem for backers of U.S. carbon pricing isn’t that there’s no Beltway interest — some of Washington’s most powerful officials and K Street interests like the idea. It’s that the timing never seems to work out.
Driving the news: “President Biden believes that at some point in time we need to find out a way to have a price on carbon that’s effective,” John Kerry, President Biden’s special climate envoy, said at a briefing in India last week.
- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is on board and has made similar points about Biden’s stance.
- Two K Street behemoths — the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have recently come around on the idea.
Yes, but: Pricing — which typically means taxes or emissions trading — isn’t part of President Biden’s big, climate-heavy infrastructure proposal to Congress.
- Nor is pricing part of a sweeping climate proposal that House Democrats recently unveiled, another sign that pricing has lost cachet on the left.
- Powerful lobbying groups like API, the Chamber and the Business Roundtable are out of sync with Republicans in Congress, where GOP support for pricing remains extremely low.
Flashback: A decade ago, emissions trading was a pillar of Democratic climate legislation that passed the House but collapsed in the Senate — and at the time faced strong K Street opposition.
What they’re saying: Brian Deese, who heads Biden’s National Economic Council, has some interesting comments on pricing in a new interview with the New York Times’ Ezra Klein.
- It’s a nuanced chat, but Deese gets into why pricing can be effective in some sectors, but not all.
- He also emphasized upfront investments and other policies more commensurate with the deployment pace the White House wants.
- “A lot of these are market failures or barriers that are not just solvable by a price and unlocking the private sector,” Deese said. He offered transmission as an example.
“The reason why we don’t have transmission buildout sufficient to support the increased buildout for renewable energy is a complicated mix of politics and economics and jurisdictional issues that, actually, the federal government intervening with a combination of incentives and requirements could really help unlock.”
To be sure, pricing supporters are active in Congress. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced his latest carbon fee bill with 35 Democratic co-sponsors on April 1.
- Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the chamber’s number two Democrat, reintroduced his carbon fee plan last month.
- But there’s no sign Democratic leadership is making a push.
The bottom line: The coming months will bring a frenzy of negotiations on climate-related investments and more on Capitol Hill. Pricing’s unlikely to play a big role.