Opponents to AK Resource Development offer “poverty and despair”.

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Today’s Key Takeaways:  Global oil and gas markets more powerful than Biden administration green agenda. Time crunch for Cook Inlet gas bills to move. Support for Ambler from Alaska Native communities growing. AI power demand prompts nuclear focus.


Against All Odds American Oil Soars Under Biden
Alex Kimani, OilPrice.Com, April 1, 2024

  • Oil and gas investors have been handsomely rewarded under the Biden administration.
  • Energy shares jumped 124% so far since Biden took over at the Oval Office vs. a 65% decline for the comparable period under Trump.
  • Trump has promised to “drill baby, drill” and restore America’s energy independence when he returns to the White House–even as the U.S. cements its position as a fossil fuel superpower. 

After a sharp decline in the final quarter of 2023, U.S. gasoline prices are surging again in a pivotal election year, offering Republicans a fresh chance to pin the blame on President Biden’s green agenda much to the chagrin of the White House. According to Bloomberg, citing new data from AAA Automobile Club, U.S. gas prices are now on course to hit the dreaded $4-a-gallon mark in the coming months, thanks to rising crude prices amid tightening supplies.

But here’s the kicker: under most key metrics, the U.S. oil and gas industry has flourished under the Biden administration despite its push towards a carbon-free future, proving that not even Washington has sufficient power to single-handedly sway large, globally interconnected markets like oil and gas. GOP White House hopefuls were quick to lambast Biden and his energy policies in the post-Covid oil price rally that hit its zenith shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.



Lots of ideas, but not much time, to address Cook Inlet gas crunch
Eric Stone, Alaska Public Media, March 29, 2024

A variety of proposals are moving through the state House and Senate aimed at alleviating a coming shortfall of Cook Inlet natural gas.

“We’re seeing a number of bills that are looking at how to address this,” Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said on Tuesday’s Talk of Alaska.

For years, utilities and gas producers have warned that supplies are dwindling in Cook Inlet, threatening to push up prices for electricity and heating. A Southcentral cold snap in January that strained gas infrastructure only underscored the urgency of the problem. 

Now, lawmakers are trying to figure out the best way forward — and utilities say they have months, not years, to settle on a plan.

The bills they’re considering to ease the crunch fall into a few buckets — one, making it cheaper for producers to pull gas out of Cook Inlet. There are a few bills aimed at lowering taxes and royalties, though it’s unclear how much royalty or tax relief would actually juice production. At a hearing earlier this year, the largest-by-far Cook Inlet producer, Hilcorp, told lawmakers it wasn’t sure whether they’d move the needle on investment decisions. 

Even so, Senate Resources Committee chair Sen. Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said royalty relief could help smaller producers like HEX/Furie boost their output.

“They have the infrastructure in place, they believe the gas is there, so that seems like the quickest solution,” Giessel said. “That’s why the royalty relief has so much interest”

There’s also talk about making it cheaper to bring more drilling infrastructure to Alaska. A bill from Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage and the House Resources Committee chair, would help companies offset the cost of bringing enormous offshore drilling rigs to Cook Inlet.

“The bill proposes a targeted incentive that will increase the project economics or improve the project economics for investing in another jack-up rig to be used in Cook Inlet to drill for and extract natural gas by providing a carry forward tax credit equal to the costs associated with leasing and transporting the rig to Alaska,” he said at a hearing introducing the bill.



Hughes reframes Ambler Road question
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, March 28, 2024

“What happens to our communities and Tribal members if a road is not built, and no jobs or opportunity exists for our children and future generations?”

Trilogy Metals Inc. March 26 announced that yet another rural Alaska Native community has passed a resolution in support of the Ambler Access Project – a proposed 211-mile, industrial-use-only road that would connect the mineral-rich Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska to the Dalton Highway and global markets.

Hughes Village, which lies about 75 miles southeast of the Ambler District, passed a resolution in support of the Ambler Access Project, as long as access to the road is limited to the mining companies and rural communities in the area.

“This resolution embodies our dedication to responsible resource development and securing a prosperous future for our younger and coming generations,” said Hughes Village Chief Thelma Nicholia.

The proposed Ambler Access Project, more widely known as the Ambler Road, would provide a means of transporting metal-rich concentrates to refiners for processing, which is essential for mines developed in the Ambler District.

Ambler Metals LLC – a 50-50 joint venture between Trilogy and South32 Ltd. – plans to develop mines that would produce copper, zinc, gold, silver, and cobalt on its Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects, a 448,217-acre property that covers much of the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska.

Valhalla Metals Inc. is exploring similar copper-zinc-silver-gold deposits on its Sun project that lies along the route of the proposed Ambler Road.

Reframing the road question

Hughes Village believes responsible development of the road and mines in the Ambler District could provide an economic hub for rural communities in this part of western Alaska.

In the resolution, the Tribe of Hughes wrote, “Opponents to responsible and balanced resource development (such as the Red Dog Mine) offer nothing for the future except continued poverty and despair.”



Granholm eyes talks with Big Tech on AI power needs
Hans Nichols, Axios, April 1, 2024

The Biden administration wants to “accelerate” its conversations with big technology companies on how to generate more electricity — including with nuclear power — to meet their massive demand for artificial intelligence computing.

Why it matters: The growing demand for power from AI and data centers is a “problem” that needs to be addressed, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tells Axios in a wide-ranging interview.

  • “AI itself isn’t a problem, because AI could help to solve the problem,” Granholm said last week during a tour of the Midwest, where she was selling President Biden’s record on green tech and manufacturing.
  • The DOE is exploring how energy-hungry tech firms might be able to host small nuclear plants on the campuses of their massive data centers.
  • But conversations with big companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon need “to accelerate, because this demand for power is only going up,” she said.

Driving the news: Granholm spoke with Axios after she announced a $1.52 billion loan guarantee to help restart a shuttered nuclear power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan last week.

  • If the Holtec Palisades plant receives regulatory approval, it will become the first recommissioned nuclear facility in U.S. history — part of “major milestones” the Energy Department expects this year for nuclear energy.
  • In recent years, electricity consumption has been largely flat, but the needs of electric vehicles, AI computing and data centers — plus clean tech manufacturing — has added new demands on utilities.

Between the lines: The promise of nuclear energy, which currently accounts for 20% of U.S. power generation, was clearly on Granholm’s mind.

  • It has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
  • At the same time, the Energy Department is grappling with the growing energy needs from AI computing.

What we’re watching: Tech companies have been exploring — and investing in — nuclear fusion to help power their data centers, even as they shift power to renewable sources. But fusion technology could be years away.

  • Another source is nuclear fission, produced by small modular reactors (SMRs).
  • “Not all of them, but a lot of them— Microsoft, etc. — are interested in bringing their own clean power,” Granholm said. And some technology companies are already shifting to running data centers on renewables.
  • Still, getting all the appropriate permits to build SMRs is an issue, she said, as are costs.
  • “We’re trying to crack the code,” she said. “How do you bring down that cost, so that utilities are willing to take on the risk of SMRs?”