The folly of “electrify everything.” Donlin exceeds expectations. AK House moves.

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News of the Day:

This Blizzard Exposes The Perils Of Attempting To ‘Electrify Everything’
Robert Bryce, Forbes, February 15, 2021

The massive blast of Siberia-like cold that is wreaking havoc across North America is proving that if we humans want to keep surviving frigid winters, we are going to have to keep burning natural gas — and lots of it — for decades to come.

That cold reality contradicts the “electrify everything” scenario that’s being promoted by climate change activists, politicians, and academics. They claim that to avert the possibility of catastrophic climate change, we must stop burning hydrocarbons and convert all of our transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial systems so that they are powered solely on electricity, with most of that juice coming, of course, from forests of wind turbines and oceans of solar panels. 

But attempting to electrify everything would concentrate our energy risks on an electricity grid that is already breaking under the surge in demand caused by the crazy cold weather. Across America, countless people don’t have electricity. I’m one of them. Our power here in central Austin went out at about 3 am. I am writing this under a blanket, have multiple layers of clothes on, and am nervously watching my laptop’s battery indicator. 

This blizzard proves that attempting to electrify everything would be the opposite of anti-fragile. Rather than make our networks and critical systems more resilient and less vulnerable to disruptions caused by extreme weather, bad actors, falling trees, or simple negligence, electrifying everything would concentrate our dependence on a single network, the electric grid, and in doing so make nearly every aspect of our society prone to catastrophic failure if — or rather, when — a widespread or extended blackout occurs.

This blizzard proves that we have not been taking our energy security seriously enough. The concept of energy security has many aspects. But the most fundamental one is that we all have enough reliable and affordable energy (of whatever type) so that we don’t freeze to death during cold spells like the one now wreaking havoc across the continent. 


Oil prices close to 13-month highs, supported by Texas cold snap
Reuters, February 16, 2021

Oil prices hovered near 13-month highs on Tuesday, supported by a U.S. cold snap that shut wells in the oil-producing state of Texas, though gains were capped by a Norwegian wage deal that averted supply disruptions in Europe.

The global rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, fueling expectations of a recovery in the global economy and oil demand, has also kept prices buoyant.

Keenly watched U.S. oil inventory data from the API industry association and Energy Information Administration (EIA) will be released this week on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, each delayed by a day after U.S. markets were closed for a public holiday on Monday.


Natural Gas Skyrockets Again to $500 as Blackouts Spread in U.S.
Michael Tobin, Gerson Freitas Jr, Naureen S. Malik, Bloomberg, February 15, 2021

Natural gas for physical delivery in the U.S. was trading for as much as $500 per million British thermal units on Monday as demand for the heating and power plant fuel soared amid a deep freeze.

Gas at two hubs in the U.S. Midcontinent was trading at $500 per mmBtu and went for $240 at a third on Monday, according to traders. Spot gas has been trading for hundreds of dollars across the central U.S. since Thursday with a surge in heating demand triggering widespread blackouts and sending electricity prices soaring. The fuel normally trades in the region for less than $3 per mmBtu.

“It’s a shocking situation,” said Cody Moore, head of gas and power trading at Mercuria Energy America LLC. “It’s chaos. It’s crazy with the prices.” Mercuria booked hotel rooms for some of its employees in the Houston area so they could walk to the office instead of driving on icy roads. “Our first priority was to do whatever we can to keep the grid moving, the gas flowing properly, clients informed, and regulatory agencies updated where required,” Moore said.


Donlin Gold Exceeds Modeled Expectations in Successful 2020 Drilling Program
NOVAGOLD, February 1, Alaska Business Magazine

In a year when many exploration drill programs were cancelled due to the pandemic, NOVAGOLD’s Donlin Gold project was fortunate to have top drilling professionals on site that exceeded expectations by completing drilling ahead of schedule and under budget, including surpassing the number of planned drill holes.

The Donlin Gold 2020 drill program commenced in February and was paused temporarily in early April due to COVID-19. Activities resumed in May following the reopening of certain aspects of the State’s economy by Alaska’s Governor, and after consultation with employees, contractors, and regional villages regarding COVID-19 protocols and other safety measures.

The primary objective of the 2020 drill program was to validate recently developed geologic and resource modeling concepts. 

To date, results in both the proposed ACMA and Lewis pit areas continue to exceed modeled expectations, with higher grades observed over narrower intervals, particularly in sedimentary rocks.

Once all assay results are received and incorporated into the model, the results are expected to drive an update of mining schedules and life of mine business plans. As of January 2021, assays have been reported for over 70 percent of the planned program. Final assay results for the 2020 drill program are expected to be reported in the coming months.


Alaska House control still uncertain as leadership positions remain unconfirmed
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, February 15, 2021

Alaska’s new Speaker of the House said Monday that a swing-voting Eagle River Republican has joined a new majority in the state House and may be one of two leaders of the House Finance Committee. But that Republican, Rep. Kelly Merrick, was noncommittal.

As the House attempts to emerge from a three-week leadership deadlock, the situation remained confusing and uncertain.

House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, told reporters that Merrick is a member of the majority and that the majority includes 21 votes, enough to control the 40-person House.

“Everything’s pliable, but as it stands right now, we have Rep. Merrick and Rep. Edgmon as our co-chairs of finance,” Stutes said, referring to former Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham.


The status and politics of the Texas power crisis
Ben Geman, Axios, February 16, 2021

More than 4.3 million Texas homes and businesses are without power as of Tuesday morning, per the tracking service

Why it matters: Bitter cold temperatures and winter storms are wreaking havoc on the power system in Texas and its refineries, and affecting other states too.

The big picture: Via The Houston Chronicle

  • “The Texas power grid, powered largely by wind and natural gas, is relatively well equipped to handle the state’s hot and humid summers when demand for power soars.”
  • “But unlike blistering summers, the severe winter weather delivered a crippling blow to power production, cutting supplies as the falling temperatures increased demand.”

What we’re watching: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Richard Glick said in a statement that they would be “examining the root causes of these reliability events,” but the current focus is on power restoration and safety.

The intrigue: We’ll also be looking to see how the outages in Texas affect the politics of clean energy debates.

  • While frozen Texas wind turbines are getting lots of attention, Bloomberg notes: “The majority of outages … were plants fueled by natural gas, coal and nuclear, which together make up more than two-thirds of power generation during winter.”
  • Still, a separate Bloomberg piece on this crisis and severe weather affecting grids elsewhere notes, “Electrifying sectors like transport and heating to use green power is seen as vital to reaching net-zero [emissions] but the world’s grid infrastructure may not be ready for that shift.”

What they’re saying: ClearView Energy Partners, in a note, said renewable power critics may point to the crisis as “evidence for the need for Texas to reevaluate grid reliability.”

But they’re “skeptical” that efforts to slow wind and solar in Texas, the nation’s largest wind power-producing state, will take root.

  • They point out that multiple forms of generation were knocked offline.
  • Plus, “Texas does not have typical state policies driving renewable buildout that they easily be reversed or modified.”