News of the Day:
Interior Department chooses Native woman for top Alaska advisor
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, April 12, 2021
The Interior Department today named Raina Thiele as the department’s top official on Alaska issues.
Thiele was President Obama’s lead tribal liaison and helped organize his landmark trip to Alaska in 2015.
Thiele will be the first Alaska Native person to hold the position. She is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik.
Thiele, 38, grew up in several Alaska communities, urban and rural: Big Lake, Homer, Pedro Bay and Alexander Creek, where her father is from. She’s a member of the Pedro Bay tribe.
She and her family are Bristol Bay fishermen, commercial and subsistence.
Thiele has degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Houston (Alaska) High School, in the Mat-Su.
Her job will be based in Washington, D.C., in the office of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Thiele’s official title is “senior advisor for Alaska affairs and strategic priorities.” She starts later this month.
Sources: Biden picks Tommy Beaudreau for No. 2 Interior spot
Emma Dumain and Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News, Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The Biden administration has settled on Tommy Beaudreau as its new pick to serve as deputy Interior secretary, sources familiar with internal decisionmaking told E&E News this morning.
Beaudreau, an energy lawyer who was the first director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, could be nominated as early as tomorrow, the sources said.
Last month, the White House decided against moving forward with the nomination of Elizabeth Klein, an Interior Department veteran whom it had previously selected for the key agency role.
The nomination of Klein, most recently the deputy director of the New York University School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, was derailed amid concerns from some centrist senators, among them Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), that she would be too hostile to oil and gas interests.
In her previous job, Klein helped support state attorneys general in filing dozens of lawsuits challenging Trump environmental rollbacks, including the former administration’s efforts to open up the public lands within the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.
Murkowski had been openly promoting the Alaska-raised Beaudreau to the White House, a preference the Biden administration began to take increasingly seriously during Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s contentious confirmation hearings (E&E Daily, March
OPEC raises 2021 oil demand growth forecast on hope pandemic wanes
Alex Lawler, Reuters, April 13, 2021
OPEC on Tuesday raised its forecast for growth in world oil demand this year on expectations the pandemic will subside, providing help for the group and its allies in their efforts to support the market.
Demand will rise by 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, or 6.6%, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast in its monthly report. That is up 70,000 bpd from last month.
“As the spread and intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to subside with the ongoing rollout of vaccination programmes, social distancing requirements and travel limitations are likely to be scaled back, offering increased mobility,” OPEC said in the report.
The upward revision marks a change of tone from previous months, in which OPEC has lowered demand forecasts because of continued lockdowns. A further recovery could bolster the case for OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, to unwind more of last year’s record oil output cuts.
Oil gained further towards $64 a barrel after the report was released on Tuesday. Prices have risen to pre-pandemic highs above $70 this year, boosted by anticipation of economic recovery and OPEC+ supply restraint.
OPEC made a small upward revision in its 2021 demand projection last month, but it has steadily lowered the forecast from 7 million bpd expected in July 2020.
The group raised its forecast of 2021 world economic growth to 5.4% from 5.1%, assuming the impact of the pandemic is “largely contained” by the beginning of the second half of the year.
“The global economic recovery continues, significantly supported by unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus,” OPEC said. “The recovery is very much leaning towards the second half of 2021.”
Qatar Could Throw A Wrench In America’s Ambitious LNG Plans
Irina Slav, OilPrice.Com, April 11, 2021
U.S. domestic demand for natural gas has been falling for a year now, according to EIA data. The authority expects demand will continue down this year as well because of cheap renewables and coal. And yet, production is on the rise—a combination that makes U.S. gas producers increasingly dependent on export markets. Reuters’ John Kemp wrote in a recent column that while U.S. natural gas production grew at some 4.3 percent between 2015 and 2020, domestic consumption of the commodity only increased at half that rate. Exports—via pipelines and as LNG—were what absorbed the excess. In a best-case scenario, they will continue to absorb it. In a worst-case scenario, competition on the LNG market could hit U.S. producers hard.
Exports of American liquefied natural gas to the three top importers in Asia hit a record in February, reaching 3.2 million tons in February amid colder than usual weather for that time of the year. The February export amount was two and a half times greater than the previous monthly record set by U.S. exporters.
LNG exports to Asia also surged by as much as 67 percent last year, which is certainly good news for producers and liquefiers. What’s not so good is that exports to Asia represented about half of all U.S. LNG exports last year.
It’s obvious that Asia is the key market for LNG exporters: the continent is currently moving from coal to gas for its power generation and will drive demand for the commodity for probably decades to come. The problem with that, for U.S. LNG producers, is that they’re not alone on the market.
The biggest threat comes from Qatar—reigning top LNG exporter and low-cost producer—which recently announced plans to expand its production capacity significantly.
Golden Summit living up to its moniker
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, April 12, 2021
While earlier bonanza grade gold from the 2020 drill program at Freegold Ventures Ltd.’s Golden Summit property in Alaska was impressive, one drill intercept in the latest batch of results returned by far the highest grade gold intercept drilled by the company so far.
This hole, GS2017, cut 1.7 meters averaging a staggering 588 grams per metric ton (18.9 ounces per metric ton) gold. This was part of a 219.8-meter intercept that averaged 1.61 g/t gold. This longer intercept did not include the full value of the 1.7-meter bonanza grade section. Instead, the 588 g/t gold was cut to a mere 88 g/t gold for the purpose of calculating a weighted average to prevent the 14.9 oz/t intercept from overly influencing the wider results.
Hole GS2017 was drilled roughly 520 meters northwest of GSDL2001, a hole that cut 188 meters averaging 3.69 g/t gold, including a two-meter intercept averaging 169.5 g/t (4.9 ounces per metric ton) gold.
Before the start of the 2020 program, most of the drilling at Golden Summit focused on Dolphin, a deposit that hosts 61.5 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 0.69 g/t ton (1.36 million ounces) gold; and 71.5 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 0.69 g/t (1.58 million oz) gold.
With grades reminiscent of the ore feeding the mill and heap leach facility at Kinross Gold Corp.’s neighboring Fort Knox Mine, this deposit holds promise for future bulk tonnage mining.
Freegold’s 2020 program, however, focused on testing its theory that higher grade gold mineralization extends west from the historic Cleary Hill Mine, which produced 281,000 ounces of gold from ore averaging 1.3 oz per ton before the operation was shuttered during World War II.
In an effort to gain support for it’s “infrastructure” plan, the Biden administration released a list of “needs” for all 50 states. The Alaska list is below.
• ROADS AND BRIDGES: In Alaska there are 141 bridges and over 570 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.5% in Alaska and on average, each driver pays $402 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. The American Jobs Plan will devote more than $600 billion to transform our nations’ transportation infrastructure and make it more resilient, including $115 billion repairing roads and bridges.
• PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Alaskans who take public transportation spend an extra 120% of their time commuting. 14% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. The American Jobs Plan will modernize public transit with an $85 billion investment.
• RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE: From 2010 to 2020, Alaska has experienced 2 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $1 billion in damages. The President is calling for $50 billion to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure and support communities’ recovery from disaster.
• DRINKING WATER: Over the next 20 years, Alaska’s drinking water infrastructure will require $987 million in additional funding. The American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment to ensure clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.
• HOUSING: In part due to a lack of available and affordable housing, 37,000 renters in Alaska are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The President proposes investing over $200 billion to increase housing supply and address the affordable housing crisis.
• BROADBAND: 24.5% of Alaskans live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. And 68.8% of Alaskans live in areas where there is only one such internet provider. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. 12% of Alaska households do not have an internet subscription. The American Jobs Plan will invest $100 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed, and affordable coverage to every family in America.
• CAREGIVING: Across the country, hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities are in need of home and community-based services. The President’s plan will invest $400 billion to help more people access care and improve the quality of caregiving jobs.
• CHILD CARE: In Alaska, there is an estimated $121 million gap in what schools need to do maintenance and make improvements and 61% of residents live in a childcare desert. The American Jobs Plan will modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities and build new ones in neighborhoods across Alaska and the country.
• MANUFACTURING: Manufacturers account for about 3% of total output in Alaska, employing 13,000 workers, or 4.0% of the state’s workforce. The American Job’s Plan will invest $300 billion to retool and revitalize American manufacturers.
• HOME ENERGY: In Alaska, an average low-income family spends 6-8% of their income on home energy costs forcing tough choices between paying energy bills and buying food, medicine, or other essentials. The American Jobs Plan will upgrade low-income homes to make them more energy efficient through a historic investment in the Weatherization Assistance Program, a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to finance building improvements, and expanded tax credits to support home energy upgrades.
• CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: As of 2019, there were 5,628 Alaskans working in clean energy, and the American Jobs Plan invests in creating more good paying union jobs advancing clean energy production by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy generation, carbon capture and sequestration and clean energy manufacturing.
• VETERANS HEALTH: Alaska is home to over 69,000 veterans, 13.8% of whom are women and 29.7% of whom are over the age of 65. The President is calling for $18 billion to improve the infrastructure of VA health care facilities to ensure the delivery of world-class, state of the art care to veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. This includes improvements to ensure appropriate care for women and older veterans.
‘Green bank’ for sustainable energy projects finds favor with Dunleavy and Young
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, April 12, 2021
Measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions are still controversial among Republican politicians, but the idea of “green banking” is gaining a foothold.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced bills to create an “energy independence fund” to finance sustainable energy projects on Friday.
The legislation dovetails a bill in Congress, primarily sponsored by Democrats. The national bill creates a $100 billion fund to help capitalize state green banks. Alaska Congressman Don Young recently signed on as a co-sponsor of that bill.
Chris Rose of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project has advocated for a state green bank for years. One idea, Rose said, is to build on Alaska’s successful home weatherization grant program.
“Over 50,000 homes got weatherized. The average energy savings was 30%,” he said. “But the state cannot afford those kinds of grants anymore. So we’ve been looking for a while at the idea of a green bank, to provide affordable financing for those kinds of projects.”
The need for green finance was brought home to Rose a few months ago when he tried to get a loan for rooftop solar panels. The best he could find was 8% interest.
“This is interesting, because I could go to that same financial institution and probably get a 3% loan to buy a new car. That depreciates the day I drive it off the lot,” he said. “But I pay 8% for a loan that improves the value of my property and lowers my energy bill.”
One reason for the disparity, in his view, is that banks understand car loans. He said a state green bank can, among other things, provide expertise to encourage sustainable energy loans.
“We want to expand the market for clean energy finance for the private banks,” Rose said. “The idea of a green bank is certainly not to compete with the private banks. It’s rather to create a space for them to get more involved by designing products that are less risky for them to get involved with.”
The governor’s bill would establish an “energy independence fund” within the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. His proposal includes a $10 million initial capitalization.
If the federal bill passes, it could send an estimated $130 million to Alaska’s green bank