Interior’s oil and gas showdown
Matthew Choi, Politico, March 25, 2021
— Interior hosts its forum on oil and gas today, setting up a public sparring match between industry advocates who fear they may lose access to lucrative fields on federal land and environmentalists who want the administration to live up to its promises for tighter regulation.
OIL AND GAS IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Interior Department is hosting a forum on the future of oil and gas today, and the jostling is already in full swing.
Environmentalists are pushing for more teeth in federal regulations, including increasing how much companies should pay the public for fuel production on public land. They also want more backing on cleaning up old wells left open after production ceases.
The oil industry itself has been split on the federal review that Interior has launched on leasing. Major companies have publicly said they’re fine with a temporary pause on new leases that the Biden administration put in place while it goes over the rulebook. But more conservative-minded companies and lawmakers are fighting tooth and nail and using the review to bash the administration, portraying the pause as a total ban (it’s not… at least not yet).
The end game remains unclear. Biden campaigned on halting new oil drilling on public lands, full stop, but his administration is carefully avoiding that language now. When asked about the leasing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki knocked the Trump administration, saying it had “flooded the oil markets with cheap federal leases,” and that “there are oil and gas jobs that are out there. The existing leases will continue. (Biden’s) really talking about future leases.”
But that’s worrying some Democrats. “I don’t think that was either … the president’s intention or the intention of Congress to have a permanent ban,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) responded earlier this month when reminded of Biden’s pledge. “We have a broken leasing system, and we need to step back. We need to study it.”
But the administration could view tightened regulations as a win-win if the results are less oil and gas production but more money into public coffers. That’s possible at least in some cases: ME notes that a 2017 GAO report found raising royalty rates for onshore drilling would likely lead to less production on federal land but higher revenues for the government. In Biden-land, that could be considered the perfect outcome.
Federal gasline funding pitch gets chilly reception in Senate Resources
Elwood Brehmer, Alaska Journal of Commerce, March 24, 2021
Lawmakers expressed skepticism toward the plan backed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to seek more than $4 billion in federal money to spur construction of the $39 billion Alaska LNG Project in their first official briefing on the proposal.
Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Frank Richards told the Senate Finance Committee March 22 that the state-owned corporation has all 36 of the major federal authorizations and permits it needs to build the megaproject in-hand and is now working to gain support in Washington, D.C. for funding the vast majority of the project’s initial $5.9 billion phase.
Pitched as a development-ready project that would fit well into a massive, nationwide infrastructure spending bill — a stated priority of both the Trump and Biden administrations that has yet to materialize — and an energy project that would help displace dirtier coal and oil use in Alaska and abroad, members of Congress and the new administration are becoming more and more receptive to the concept, according to Richards.
Dunleavy unveiled the latest Alaska LNG funding concept in a late January newspaper op-ed that would have the federal government contribute 75 percent, or about $4.5 billion, of the $5.9 billion AGDC believes it would cost to build the first section of pipeline to from the North Slope to the Fairbanks area as well as spur lines to connect ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson gas unit and Fairbanks utilities to the 42-inch export mainline.
“We’re trying to identify this as an opportunity to build a critical piece of infrastructure for the state of Alaska,” Richards said.
Rio Tinto to use solar technology to power California mine
Mining.Com, March 24, 2021
The world’s second-largest miner, Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO), announced Wednesday an agreement to explore the deployment of renewable energy technology company Heliogen’s solar technology at Rio’s borates mine in Boron, California.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Heliogen will deploy its proprietary, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology at the Boron operation, where it will use heat from the sun to generate and store carbon-free energy to power the mine’s industrial processes.
Top of Form
In a press release, the companies said they will begin detailed planning and securing government permits for the project, with the aim of starting operations from 2022.
They will also use the Boron installation to begin exploring the potential for deployments of Heliogen’s technology at Rio Tinto’s other operations around the world to supply process heat, which accounted for 14% of Scope 1 & 2 emissions from the Group’s managed operations in 2020.
Heliogen’s high-temperature solar technology is designed to replace fossil fuels with sunlight cost-effectively for a range of industrial processes.
“This partnership with Heliogen has the potential to significantly reduce our emissions at Boron by using this groundbreaking solar technology, and we look forward to exploring opportunities across our global portfolio,” Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said in the statement.
Biden says he plans to run for re-election in 2024
Reuters, March 25, 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he planned to run for re-election in 2024.
Biden, 78, is the oldest person to take office as president in U.S. history and there has been speculation that he would serve only one four-year term.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
ELECTRIC VEHICLE COALITION ASKS BIDEN FOR INCENTIVES AND CHARGING STATIONS: A new coalition of electric vehicle groups and environmental organizations are calling on the Biden administration and Congress to ramp up funding and policy support for electrifying all aspects of transportation, including by providing federal dollars to build out charging stations and creating new purchase incentives to lower the cost of zero-emission trucks.
The coalition, known as CHARGE, includes EV lobbying groups such as the Zero Emissions Transportation Association and Plug In America, as well as environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.