Long slog for AK. Dueling infrastructure plans. Lukewarm response to Biden NDC.

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News of the Day:

Earth Day Doesn’t Get Much Credit for Environmental Awareness
Rasmussen Reports, April 22, 2021

A majority of Americans say they’ve done their share to clean up the planet, but most don’t credit Earth Day – celebrated annually on April 22 – for raising awareness of environmental issues.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 60% of American Adults have volunteered their time or donated money to help clean up the environment. That’s down from 65% in 2017, which was the highest in our survey history. Thirty-three percent (33%) have not contributed time or money to green efforts. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

However, only 36% believe Earth Day, established in 1970, has helped raise the environmental awareness of most of their fellow Americans. Thirty-three percent (38%) disagree, while 25% are not sure. The number who think the holiday has raised awareness is the lowest measured since 2011.

Among Americans who have donated time or money to cleaning up the environment, however, 45% credit Earth Day with raising environmental awareness.

The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on April 19-20, 2021 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Forty-four percent (44%) of Democrats think Earth Day has helped raise environmental awareness among Americans, compared to 29% of Republicans and 35% of those not affiliated with either major party. Democrats (65%) and unaffiliateds (62%) are more likely than Republicans (52%) to say they have donated time or money to helping clean up the environment.

Those under 40 are more likely than older Americans to say Earth Day has helped raise environmental awareness but are less likely than those ages 40-64 to have contributed time or money to helping clean up the environment.

Blacks (68%) are more likely than whites (57%) or other minorities (64%) to say they have volunteered their time or donated money to help clean up the environment. However, blacks (34%) are less likely than whites (36%) or other minorities (40%) to credit Earth Day with raising environmental awareness.

Government employees are significantly more likely than private-sector workers to say Earth Day has helped raise the environmental awareness of most of their fellow Americans.

Most voters still see climate change as a natural disaster in the making, and those who blame humans for it remain strongly supportive of a government crackdown.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to have the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement, but most voters believe Biden’s decision will mean lost jobs and higher bills for Americans.


S&P outlook expects Alaska to trail oil peers in recovery
Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Journal of Commerce, April 21, 2021

A newly published Outside economic outlook for oil and gas-heavy states backs up what local forecasters have been saying: It’s going to be a long slog back for Alaska.

The April 15 S&P Global report entitled, “U.S. Oil and Gas-Dependent States Are Out Of The Woods (For Now),” concludes that Alaska’s economic recovery from the pandemic is likely to be amongst the slowest in the nation, with Texas being the only traditional oil state to be among the national leaders in near-term growth.

The international market analysis firm believes the national economy will see gross domestic product, or GDP, growth of 6.5 percent this year and 3.1 percent in 2022 after contracting by 3.5 percent last year, but the recovery will be “uneven,” according to the report.

“Without exception, all mineral-producing states were affected by the dual-shock of the pandemic-induced recession and the global energy rout last year, with five of them in the bottom 20 percent of all states in 2020 for economic growth,” the S&P report states.

Alaska’s economy contracted by 4.9 percent last year based on state-specific GDP, putting it 42nd nationally and ahead of other oil states like Louisiana, Texas, and Wyoming, but behind the likes of North Dakota, New Mexico, and Texas.

According to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Alaska lost $4.1 billion, or 7.5 percent of its total economic output last year compared to 2019.

S&P’s authors have pegged Alaska’s growth this year at about 5.1 percent, which would put it 33rd nationally based on the analysts’ projections. That growth is expected to taper to just more than 3 percent in 2022, which would be amongst the slowest growth nationwide.

“By 2022, only Alaska and West Virginia (among resource states) are forecast to rank in the bottom 10 states,” the authors conclude. “States that have a high reliance on mining activity and less diversified economic portfolios may see prolonged economic recovery compared to the rest of the sector.”

University of Alaska Anchorage economist Mouhcine Guettabi said in a presentation earlier this month that the state’s labor market remains “ugly” with little optimism for significant organic growth in the coming years.

The state Labor Department forecasted in January that Alaska this year will recover about 30 percent of the approximately 27,200 jobs lost in 2020 and full recovery to 2019 levels will take several years. Guettabi and other economists also routinely note that prior to the pandemic Alaska was just starting to recover from a three-year recession when most of the Lower 48 economy was strong as well.

S&P analysts-maintained Alaska’s AA- general obligation credit rating with a negative outlook in the report, a rating issues roughly a year ago when pandemic restrictions were tightest and domestic oil prices briefly went negative.

A summary of the state’s fiscal situation notes that improved oil prices are helping the state’s immediate revenue situation, but emphasizes that “Over the long term, the state continues to grapple with sustainable budgeting. While total reserves remain very strong, additional revenue sources will be needed as expenditure reductions have been virtually exhausted over the past several years. The governor’s (10-year) plan recognizes a need for new revenues in fiscal 2023, but it is unclear what that may entail.”


AK LNG strikes out on Biden’s infrastructure pitch


China Moly to help small-scale cobalt miners
Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.Com, April 22, 2021

Cobalt and tungsten producer China Molybdenum and its Swiss-based trading arm, IXM, have joined a program that seeks to help artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) become a responsibly managed, viable source of battery metals.

The “Better Mining” initiative, launched in 2018 by responsible-sourcing group RCS Global, has placed special emphasis on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which generates about two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt. The metal, a by-product of copper or nickel, is used to make lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones and electric cars.

China Moly (CMOC), the world’s no.2 cobalt miner and largest tungsten producer, said that joining RCS Global’s Better Mining upstream assurance and impact program program to benefit communities that are reliant on ASM.

“As a large industrial miner that maintains strict product control and custody procedures, ASM sits outside of our own cobalt supply chain but we recognize that ASM, and those communities reliant on it, should not be neglected,” Julie Liang, director of CMOC’s sustainability executive committee, said in the statement. 


Republicans unveil $568 billion infrastructure plan
Alexander Bolton, The Hill, April 22, 2021

A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Thursday unveiled a $568 billion infrastructure proposal, a much smaller counteroffer to President Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan.

Republicans sent the offer to Biden shortly before noon Thursday. 

The proposal seeks to define infrastructure more narrowly compared to Biden’s expansive view of the issue, focusing on roads and bridges, public transit systems, rail, wastewater infrastructure, airports, and broadband infrastructure.

Senate Republicans are proposing user fees for electric vehicles and repurposing unused federal spending allocated by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March to cover the cost of the plan.

The total cost of the plan is at the low end of the $600 billion to $800 billion ballpark Capito proposed to reporters last week.

While some Democrats such as Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, has embraced the idea of passing a bipartisan down payment on Biden’s infrastructure agenda, other Senate Democrats have called for Congress to “go big” right out of the gate.

The latest GOP counteroffer mirrors the size of the $618 billion proposal Capito and other moderate Republicans proposed for pandemic relief to the Biden administration earlier.

Democrats flatly rejected that earlier offer as inadequate.

Their plan, which is being billed as a “framework,” would spend $299 billion on roads and bridges, $61 billion on public transit systems, $20 billion on rail, $35 billion on drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, $13 billion on safety programs, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $17 billion on ports and inland waterways, and $44 billion on airports.

It also proposes spending $65 billion to beef up and expand the nation’s broadband infrastructure to bring high-speed internet to more rural areas of the country.

The GOP spending priorities were laid out in a fact sheet titled “The Republican Roadmap” circulated to reporters before a press conference Thursday.

Capito said she put it together after conversations with Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Republican colleagues met with Biden at the White House to discuss the possibility of an infrastructure compromise.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) presented the plan along with Capito.


All the new emissions targets announced at Biden’s climate summit

From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

BIG BUSINESS (AND OIL) RESPONDS LUKEWARMLY TO BIDEN’S NDC: The Chamber of Commerce called the target “ambitious” and “welcomed Biden’s focus on returning the U.S. to international leadership on climate change.” The largest U.S. business group has previously called on Biden to embrace “all of the above” approaches to emissions reductions, and to consider the value of exporting natural gas to replace coal overseas when setting its NDC.

The American Petroleum Institute, in a round-about way, suggested Biden’s new NDC will jeopardize “affordable, reliable energy.”

“The new U.S. [NDC] addresses only half of the dual challenge of reducing the risks of climate change while ensuring affordable, reliable energy for all Americans,” said API CEO Mike Sommers, who also reiterated the group’s preference for a price on carbon.