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Northern Gas Pipelines is your public service 1-stop-shop for Alaska and Canadian Arctic energy commentary, news, history, projects and people. It is informal and rich with new information, updated daily. Here is the most timely and complete Arctic gas pipeline and northern energy archive available anywhere—used by media, academia, government and industry officials throughout the world. Northern Gas Pipelines may be the oldest Alaska blog; we invite readers to suggest others existing before 2001.  -dh

 

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Commentary

5-4-15 Never Again

04 May 2015 5:18am

"Never Again"

by

Dave Harbour

Thirty years ago President Ronald Reagan visited the Holocaust Memorial at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany.

He spoke (Note: See video, after brief ad) of unspeakable crimes against humanity and asked his audience to resolve, "Never Again".

Switch now to a fanciful world that is present day America.  Citizens focus on leading normal lives while abnormal world events portend tragedy, including:

NOTE TO ALASKANS:

Alaskans and companies depending on Alaska face a double risk: 1) hostile federal natural resource policies upon which the state is dependent, and 2) a sometimes hostile state Administration and minority of legislators who seek to dictate how investors employ their assets; and, who overspend; and who are currently seeking to remedy overspending by imposing additional predatory taxes on natural resource investors after their investments have been made.   Alaska has definately not discovered public policy nirvana, wherein:

  • taxing and spending are prudently done
  • investors are constitutionally protected from retroactive taxation and additional taxation on previously constructed facilities
  • A DEAL IS A DEAL.     -dh

Meanwhile, the Administration that has given up leadership of the free world, by "leading from behinddoes not hesitate to take hard-line, non negotiable administrative and regulatory actions against its own people, actions that weaken America from the inside, including:

Question: Why would we be hearkening back to the Holocaust and discussing failing American leadership when our primary focus is northern gas pipelines and other North American energy projects and policies?

Answer: For almost two centuries oil, gas and mining have been the basis of wealth creation in the United States -- augmented by forest products, agriculture, commercial fishing, transportation, communications, important service and retail enterprises, manufacturing and other economic pursuits depending on oil, gas and mining.   Without those three basic natural resource industries, America would be only a shadow of its current self, perhaps resembling a third world country.  

Dictatorships require a suspension of citizen and corporate freedoms to freely impose their will on those private interests.  Socialist dictators like Hitler organize to be and remain elected.  Communist dictators seem most often to take power by force and often maintain it via corrupt election systems.  Socialists and communists, from a citizen viewpoint, share a common result: absolute dictatorship.  America's elected leadership, abetted by unelected bureaucrats has sought to establish unilateral policy by executive action, boldly taunting the Congress and Judiciary.  As a result, due process, the rule of law, and three equal-but-independent branches of government and Constitutional guarantees are all at risk.  

With domestic deterioration of freedom, comes government control of the means of production, societal controls, political power at the cost of future prosperity.  The oil, gas and mining industries are so controlled by bureaucratic regulation right now that, in effect, those companies seem to report to government agencies as much or more than they report to shareholders.

Continued deterioration of freedom brings corruption and mismanagement of the energy industry as Venezuela, Argentina, Russia and now Brazil and China have amply demonstrated.  Incompetent health care rollout, SBA conference follies, IRS abuses of citizens and leaving our fighting forces to die in Benghazi gives lie to the Administration position that, "we leave no man behind".

Such is the result of dictatorship: inefficiency, abuse of power, over regulation, over taxation, corruption and the eventual destruction of a country's independence, economy and/or individual freedoms.

President Reagan urged the world to "never again" allow a holocaust like the one developed by Adolph Hitler's dictatorial administration.  

Reagan's world remembered that without a strong and resolute America the results of WWII, Korea and the Cuban Missile Crisis would have been much different.  On the contrary, Viet Nam should have taught many generations of Americans -- including this one -- that irresolute leadership prolongs the agony of war without achieving the desired outcome.

Does today's world remember the faith and fights of our fathers and mothers?  Not if you ask Cuban refugees and Columbian leaders who are amazed that the U.S. Administration would provide massive benefits to a country that still denies freedom for its citizens and supports communist guerilla activity in South America.

These days it seems that United States citizens live in an alternate universe surrounded by threatening chaos:   

  • Islamic terrorism, murders and torture are epidemic.  
  • Strong but evil-intended nations are undertaking probing tactics to determine America's weaknesses.  
  • American leadership has weakened the military, making the prospect of standing off two or more belligerents at the same time dangerously perilous...not to mention three or more.
  • Meanwhile, American leaders have attacked the economy from within:
    • They are printing unearned dollars in such volume that economic chaos, the loss of reserve currency status and violent inflation can only be steps away.  
    • Our leaders are blatantly weakening our basic industries -- oil, gas and mining -- dangerously reducing the supply of wealth from those and other energy/materials dependent sectors.
    • The Administration has created a wealth distribution, crony capitalistic system.  The system involves taxing productive industries to support political allies and/or uneconomic enterprises, including inefficient alternate energy businesses; free cell phones for some paid for by other phone users; FCC power grabbing control of the Internet without Congressional approval; sole source contracts, etc. that will cripple economic recovery if its other failings don't do so first.
    • The Administration coddles law breaking Black Panthers and minority offenders hurt or killed by law enforcement, while remaining silent when white citizens are killed by minority criminals or police (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). 
    • New health care, financial services and student loan bureaucracies, among a legion of others, have swelled federal payrolls at the expense of private employers and privately employed, taxpaying citizens.  Meanwhile, friends of the Administration and federal employees who evade taxation march on, unpunished.

Conclusion

The U.S. leadership is rapidly destroying American culture, American values and future hopes for a prosperous, secure country in two ways,

First, its poor international leadership is providing opportunity for bad actors to threaten or consume weaker countries which are American allies; and, second, its poor domestic leadership is threatening the fabric of the economy with over regulation, over taxation, unenforced immigration policies, giving lip service to opposing professionally organized social unrest, etc.

For those Americans still enjoying a fanciful world in an alternate universe, we have a heartfelt plea.  

As we engage in weekend parties, tail gate BBQs, athletic events, local politics and hobbies of every description...let's take time to teach our children about America's history, dangerous current events and how great civilizations have fallen due to internal corruption and irresponsible tax, spending and regulatory policies.  And let's teach them how our predecessors built the country and defended it, with great sacrifice, for our use today.

Can we also be mindful that with Constitutional protections, courage, freedom, patriotic commitment and firm leadership America can reclaim a vibrant energy industry, a secure national defense and a prosperous future?

In this way, today's terrorism, modern holocausts,  and territorial disputes can be extinguished or peacefully resolved as we recommit ourselves to see that murderous world malaise happens, "never again".

-30-

For those new to Northern Gas Pipelines, the author of today's commentary is Dave Harbour, Publisher.  Harbour is Commissioner Emeritus of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and has supported programs of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission for years.  Accredited as a public relations professional (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America, he has served as an external and/or government affairs manager for two pipeline companies and an Alaska North Slope oil producer.  He is a former university vice president, construction company owner and Infantry Army officer.  He is former president of the Alaska Press Club and National Bald Eagle Foundation and past Chairman of the Alaska Council on Economic Education and Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.  His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of his readers, public service sponsors or past affiliations.

 

Categories:

4-23-15 US Administration Should Emulate Canadian Regulatory System

23 April 2015 5:42am

Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of ExxonMobil Corp., speaks during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston on April 21, 2015.

ExxonMobil's Rex Tillerson Compliments Canadian Regulatory System, Chastises U.S. Administration (i.e. ...with good reason, as we have documented herein.   We would also observe that many U.S. and many Canadian decisions affect citizens of the other country, their economy and their very lives.  Therefore, as each others' largest trading partner, we should always be aware that our decisions encompass much more than simply "our" economy or "our" politics.  Tillerson is right.  From personal knowledge we are very familiar with NEB and FERC energy regulatory systems along with state and provincial systems.  Sometimes the US way is to be emulated and sometimes the Canadian practice is superior.  The trick is for government, like industry, to borrow best practices from one another--and treat each other like the North American family that we are.  In the case of the Keystone XL matter, our leadership clearly mistreated our brothers and sisters north of the border.  D'accord?  -dh  More below.)    Story: Deborah Yedlin, Calgary Herald; Photo: Calgary Herald/F. Carter Smith, Bloomberg.


163 Members of Congress Urge Admin. to Increase Energy Production in Outer Continental Shelf 

Canada's NWT borrowing boost may help unlock stranded oil and gas​

Today's Oil and Gas Shale Links From Energy In Depth

Lisa Murkowski, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Dave Harbour Photo

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (NGP Photo), highlighted the importance of reauthorizing and modernizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act so that it reflects the changing needs and evolving viewpoints about conservation in the 21st century. The LWCF was enacted 50 years ago to increase recreational opportunities for Americans. Since then, it has been used to acquire more public lands even though there are insufficient means to maintain lands already owned by the federal government.

Click to view video

“I strongly believe that conservation in the 21st century must include taking care of what we already have – what we chose to conserve first – instead of simply pretending that ‘more is always better,’” Murkowski said. “As we look to reauthorize LWCF, I believe that it makes sense to shift the federal focus away from land acquisition, particularly in Western states, toward maintaining and enhancing the accessibility and quality of the resources that we have. This is the best way to put our nation’s recreation system on the path of long-term viability.”

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pressed the administration on its use of LWCF for only a land acquisition fund rather than using the LWCF to also maintain public lands. 


  • EID-National: EID set to testify this morning before House Science Committee, releases report on dubious science behind NY HF ban (link)
     
  • EID-Marcellus: PA DEP finds methane emissions plummet as natural gas production ramps up (link)
     
  • EID-Ohio: Belmont County selected for new ethane cracker that will create thousands of great jobs (link)

NATIONAL

Thanks to Shale, a New Balance of Power in the World. NY Times. The United States is overtaking the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as the vital global swing producer that determines prices. That remarkable change has been building since 2008, as American shale fields accounted for roughly half of the world’s oil production growth while American petroleum output nearly doubled. And shale production methods have proven highly adaptable to market conditions. Not coincidentally, nearly all the advantages of the price swing are moving in Washington’s direction. Most American consumers and industries have benefited from a sharp drop in gasoline prices and other energy costs. And abroad, the economies of oil-producing adversaries like Russia and Venezuela are reeling.
 
Energy In Depth investigation takes on science behind N.Y. HF ban. Politico, sub. req’d. As its Western director prepares to testify before the House Science Committee today on hydraulic fracturing, Energy in Depth is releasing a white paper that accuses New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of falling to “political pressure from a well-funded, well-organized network of foundations and activist groups opposed to shale development” in imposing a fracking ban in December. NOTE: View the complete report here.
 
Beware, 'local control' really amounts to drilling ban. Houston Chronicle, EID’s Steve Everley. For several years now, anti-fracking groups have lobbied for "local control" in cities and towns across the country. They claim to support "reasonable" regulations, but in reality, these groups want to ban oil and gas drilling everywhere.
 
Drilling on federal lands could get more expensive. Oil & Gas 360. Dan Naatz, senior vice president of governmental relations and political affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), pointed out the inconsistency in a recent press release. “At a time when the price of oil has dropped about 50% over the past seven months and coupled with new federal regulations for onshore producers, the Obama Administration’s proposal to increase onshore royalty rates will ultimately result in fewer American jobs, less energy production, and hurt our nation’s energy security.”
 
Can this oil baron’s company withstand another quake? Bloomberg. Steve Everley of Energy In Depth, a research group, says, “If you shut down [wastewater] disposal, you’re effectively shutting down production.”
 
Oil, gas mining operations cited in Okla., Texas earthquakes. NewsMax. Energy in Depth said "several issues in the paper raise questions about its conclusion," and it "appears to suffer from some modeling flaws," and points out studies from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Research Council and the Environmental Protection Agency, which indicate that very few oil and gas operations have been implicated in earthquake activity.
 
Oil and gas activity to blame for quakes? Houston Business Journal. Steve Everley with Energy In Depth wrote a blog poking holes in SMU’s research, saying a pressure change of 5 pounds per square inch was being blamed for the quakes. That’s about the pressure of an inflated football. It also doesn’t account for the permeability of the soil, said Everley. “While the SMU study released today appears to suffer from some modeling flaws, those issues should not overshadow the fact that the research team has provided all of us with a valuable tool for better assessing induced seismicity,” Everley said in his blog.
 
Gas activities 'most likely' caused Texas quakes. KETR. Energy In Depth on Tuesday praised the researchers for developing a model that “provides greater understanding of the conditions that can ultimately lead to induced seismicity.” But on its website, it added that “several issues in the paper raise questions about its conclusion.” “The concerns we’ve identified in here are in the spirit of constructive collaboration,” Steve Everley, the group’s spokesman, said.
 
HF can build an economy. Southern Illinoisan, EID’s Seth Whitehead. If fracking is so bad, why are people flocking to North Dakota at the same alarming rate folks are leaving Illinois? The reason is simple: People go where the jobs are – and North Dakota has plenty thanks to fracking.
 
U.S. HF costs falling fast, may keep fields in play. Reuters. U.S. oil and natural gas companies have pushed down costs of fracking a shale well faster than expected, and if the trend holds up it could allow producers to keep working in oilfields that just months ago looked uncompetitive after the oil price crash.
 
Oil slump may deepen as US shale fights Opec to a standstill. Telegraph. The US shale industry has failed to crack as expected. North Sea oil drillers and high-cost producers off the coast of Africa are in dire straits, but America's "flexi-frackers" remain largely unruffled. One starts to glimpse the extraordinary possibility that the US oil industry could be the last one standing in a long and bitter price war for global market share, or may at least emerge as an energy superpower with greater political staying-power than Opec.
 
U.S. oil industry’s battle cry: exports now! Wall Street Journal. American oilmen have seized on one solution to their financial woes in the face of low oil prices: They want to export U.S. crude oil. Soon.
 
Half of U.S. HF companies will be sold this year. Bloomberg. Half of the 41 fracking companies operating in the U.S. will be dead or sold by year-end because of slashed spending by oil companies, an executive with Weatherford International Plc said. There could be about 20 companies left that provide hydraulic fracturing services, Rob Fulks, pressure pumping marketing director at Weatherford, said in an interview Wednesday at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston.
 
INTERNATIONAL

Romania signs agreement with Bulgaria and Greece on natural gas network. Business Review. On Wednesday, Sofia hosted a meeting on the construction of a gas corridor that will interconnect natural gas networks in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, with a capacity of 3-5 billion cubic meters per year. Romania was represented by Mihai Albulescu, state secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Small and Medium Enterprises and Business Environment.
 
Could massive EU-US trade deal be extended to Israel? Electronic Intifada. Israel enjoys an extremely close trading relationship with the EU. A deal approved by the European Parliament in 2012 paves the way for Israel to be integrated into the Union’s single market for goods and services. The idea that Israel would be eligible to join TTIP is being mulled over by the cognoscenti in both Brussels and Washington.
 
Europeans fight U.S. trade deal with fear of HF Under Eiffel Tower. Daily Beast. It will afflict Europe with American abominations on an almost Biblical scale: cheap and dirty food, toxic waste, mind-numbing movies and television, gas-guzzling cars, all while scrapping healthcare and erasing labour rights. That, at least, is how angry European activists are painting a planned trade deal between the European Union and the United States. A legion of horrors has been evoked about an agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, which is currently under negotiation.
 
Fifth of Labour and Lib Dem candidates pledge to defy party line on HF. Guardian. More than one in five Liberal Democrat and Labour election candidates have pledged to oppose fracking in defiance of their parties’ promises to foster the industry during the next parliament.

COLORADO

Noble agrees to upgrade Front Range equipment. Summit County Citizen’s Voice. But this week, the company agreed to clean up its act by upgrading equipment in an effort that could cost as much as $60 million, according to the EPA. Noble alos agreed to pay about $13.45 million in fines and other environmental improvement projects in the region that will help reduce air pollution along the Front Range.
 
MICHIGAN

MSU power plant to swap coal for natural gas. State News. On April 8, MSU announced the university will move toward completely cutting the use of coal at the MSU Power Plant by the end of 2016. This decision is partly in response to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations launched in 2014, officials said.

NEBRASKA
 
HF wastewater well application approved. KOTA. A Nebraska agency has given the green light to a controversial fracking wastewater disposal well project in KOTA Territory. The Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted in favor of the plan by Terex Energy Corporation to inject wastewater from fracking operations in nearby states.
 
Commission approves HF wastewater application. Star Herald. On Wednesday, the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved the Terex application to allow the injection of up to 5,000 gallons per day of fracking wastewater into an abandoned oil well in Sioux County.

NORTHEAST

Final HF report being printed, DEC chief says. Poughkeepsie Journal. A several-thousand-page document that will lay out the rationale for prohibiting fracking is "being printed as we speak," state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said Wednesday. That report, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement or SGEIS, has been nearly seven years in the making and will pave the way for Martens to issue an order keeping large-scale fracking from moving forward at the current time.
 
Trucked natural gas to replace scrapped pipeline. Rutland Herald. A New York paper mill is slated to receive truckloads of compressed natural gas beginning next month as a workaround for a canceled underground gas pipeline. According to NG Advantage, the Colchester-based gas transportation company behind the semi-truck delivery route called a “virtual pipeline” by the company, the switch from fuel oil to North American natural gas is expected to save International Paper Company’s Ticonderoga, N.Y., paper mill about 32,000 gallons of oil every day. Deliveries to Ticonderoga are scheduled begin in May.
 
Radioactive gas pollution? WV Public Broadcasting. A new study of a radioactive, carcinogenic gas has grabbed the attention of news outlets and both pro and anti-fracking groups alike. The study published earlier this month says increases of radon gas in people’s homes in Pennsylvania coincide with the horizontal drilling boom. Some geological researchers in the region are skeptical while others aren’t at all surprised.
 
West Virginia natural-gas complex is put on hold. Wall Street Journal. Two Brazilian companies are putting on hold plans to build a multibillion-dollar natural-gas refining complex in West Virginia, a project that was supposed to give an economic boost to a state reeling from the faltering coal industry.

OHIO

Belmont County named site for possible multibillion-dollar ‘cracker’ plant. Columbus Dispatch. It is not every day that elected officials from Appalachian Ohio get to announce the possibility of a multibillion-dollar development. So Belmont County leaders had reason to enjoy news yesterday that a planned ethane “cracker” plant is envisioned for a site near the Ohio River. And they hope the news will be followed in about a year with a firm commitment by developers to build the project. NOTE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Cleveland also report
 
Group pushes for county home rule, injection well ban. Athens News. A group of anti-fracking activists announced Tuesday they will be circulating petitions to turn Athens County into a charter government and ban the dumping of oil-and-gas hydraulic fracking waste, as well as use of water from sources in the county, for fracking activities, on the November ballot.

TEXAS​

Conferees get warm feeling from natural gas. San Antonio Express-News. The blue flame of natural gas glowed at a Houston energy gathering Wednesday, where producers touted the fuel’s virtues, including low prices that present both a challenge to the industry and testament to its success.
 
Small earthquakes in Dallas-Fort Worth area linked to HF. Realty Biz News. Clusters of small earthquakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are likely caused by nearby natural-gas drilling, suggests a new study by researchers at Southern Methodist University and the U.S. Geological Survey.


We will also be interested in the messages given by BP's Robert Dudley and these CERA Week speakers, among many others:

Colette Honorable, NARUC, CERA Week, Regulator, Dave Harbour PhotoNARUC's Colette Honorable

 

 

 

Lisa Murkowski, US Senate, CERA Week, Dave Harbour PhotoU.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

 

 

 

Ryan Lance, CERA Week, Dave Harbour Photo

ConocoPhillips' Ryan Lance.

 

 

 

Daniel Yergin, CERA Week, Dave Harbour PhotoDaniel Yergin, CERA 

Categories:

4-17-15 Will Excessive Pride Hinder Governor Walker's Ability to Succeed?

17 April 2015 6:28am

Sen. Murkowski: Iran Oil Could Hurt U.S. Production if Prohibition on Exporting Domestic Crude Oil isn’t Lifted

Restrictions on U.S. Oil Trade Amount to “Domestic Sanctions”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today drew attention to the potential impact that ending sanctions against Iran could have on U.S. production if the outdated prohibition on exporting domestic crude oil is not also lifted.

Click to view video

Will Excessive Pride Hinder Governor Walker's Ability to Succeed?

by

Dave Harbour

On February 25, we expressed optimism that Alaska's new, "'All Alaska' governor has the insight, courage, wisdom and grace to be both humbled at the challenges he faces and capable enough to overcome them.  We are also optimistic that Walker’s propensity to be flexible will enable him to reverse course if he sees the ship of state headed toward rocky shoals."

On February 28, our Daily Planet friend, Paul Jenkins wondered if Governor Walker is "crazy like a fox or crazy as a loon" when dealing with gas pipeline policy. 

Journal of Commerce writer, Tim Bradner, on March 4, 2015, thought the Governor might be throwing a 'wrench in the works', of the AK-LNG project.

In our April 3, 2015 editorial, we expressed concern about, "Administration interference with the Ak-LNG project by even talking about government involvement in a competing project...."

*     *     *

At yesterday's 'press availability', a reporter asked the Governor to comment on legislative suggestions that he may be 'paranoid'.  "I am not paranoid," he said.

Yet, during its due diligence stageWalker has risked losing the most advanced, Alaska North Slope gas pipeline project in history by demonstrating he does not trust the project to guarantee commercialization of gas.  To remedy that, he hopes to plow hundreds of millions in state monies into creating a competing gas transportation and marketing effort.  He believes that if the major AK-LNG project fails because of marginal economics, the state should be able to advance the competing effort because it could accept a lower profit margin than the producers.  (Astute observers, however, note that major Alaska producers are capable of financing a gas pipeline whereas Governor Walker does not have ready access to such financing.)

Yesterday's Senate Resources Committee hearing focused on the very dangerous effects of having the state create a gas pipeline project to compete with another gas pipeline project in which it is also invested.  (We were embarrassed that East Anchorage Senator  Bill Wielechowski tried to interrogate Legislative consultants on what the Legislature was paying them, etc...obviously attempting to divert the discussion from merits of proposed policies to irrelevant matters.)

Today, the Governor issued a news release commenting on his decision to withdraw his proclamation, calling on the Legislature to meet in joint session this morning to act on his appointees.

Walker appears to not trust the Legislature to do its job of voting on his appointments, fearing all the appointments could be made void should the session end this week without appointee confirmations.

Today's release below damns the Legislature by faint praise.  It suggests that he was successful in forcing the Legislature to provide him with a guarantee they would meet and act.

He goes on to suggest that this guarantee will improve relations between the Legislature and himself, that now he
"trusts them".  This is delusionary and prideful.

Then, late today (Friday), as we were completing this commentary, he vetoed the bill designed to keep him from using state resources to compete against the state's investment in the main gas pipeline project

We believe that Alaska's new governor could be honest and well intentioned.  That said, we also believe that, at best, he has a very sophomoric approach to professional relationships with high level public officials and corporate executives.

You don't ask sophisticated companies or elected officials to give you guarantees on matters that are best assured by simple, honest, effective communications and negotiated agreements.

Walker has established himself as a person who lacks the personal self confidence to communicate professionally and successfully with either Legislative or Corporate leaders.

Simply put, he is out of his league and Alaska will pay for his juvenile performance.

The two examples cited above demonstrate that Alaska certainly does not have a governor who is "crazy like a fox," nor has it been shown that his actions are free of paranoid motivations.

As we have often said, we wish Alaska's new governor well but now believe his unjustified sense of self pride may be a major factor in his desire to be a successful state governor.

-dh

“If sanctions on Iran are lifted, Tehran will be able to make money by selling their oil to our friends and may use that money to destabilize our allies,” Murkowski said. “If we lift the current sanctions on Iran while keeping in place our own domestic sanctions on crude oil exports, America’s ability to increase its domestic energy security and that of our allies will suffer.”

Click to view video

Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday that sanction relief could result in as much as 1 million barrels a day of Iranian oil flooding the global market. Meanwhile, most U.S. oil production is blocked from competing on the world market by regulations leftover from the 1970s.

Murkowski, chairman of the energy committee, stressed the strategic benefits to the United States of rising domestic oil production, including providing flexibility in dealing with trouble spots such as Iran. “It doesn’t make sense that American producers are blocked by U.S. law from selling to the same markets that Iran could reach once the sanctions are lifted,” Murkowski said. 

“It is important for us to recognize that if these sanctions on Iran are lifted and we in fact keep our own domestic sanctions in place it effectively ends up being a liability for us,” Murkowski said. “U.S. producers should be allowed to compete directly with Iran in the global market.”

Click to view video

EIA Administrator Sieminski said rising U.S. oil production – currently at 9.2 million barrels a day, its highest level since 1972 – has helped stabilize world markets and keep prices in check.

“The impact of U.S. production goes beyond just the Iranian sanctions issue,” Sieminski said. “Back in 2012 and 2013, there were some really serious interruptions in oil production in countries like Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and others. They add up to a huge amount of oil – over 2 million barrels a day, at one point approaching 3 million barrels a day. If it hadn’t been for the growth in shale production in the U.S. and production in a few other countries, including Canada, the price of oil would have been a lot higher. Obviously that would have been a benefit to producers but the overall impact on the economy could have been pretty devastating. The growth in production in the U.S. played an important role in stabilizing the global oil markets.”

Murkowski has long called for modernizing U.S. energy and trade policy to end the ban on crude oil exports. In March, she held a hearing looking at the economic and strategic benefits of ending the outdated export prohibition. Murkowski released a report last year on the need to liberalize America’s energy trade policies.

Chairman Murkowski opening statement is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook is available here.


The end of week Consumer Energy Alliance energy links:

The Wall Street JournalObama Administration Proposes New Offshore Drilling Rules
The Obama administration on Monday proposed new offshore oil and natural-gas drilling regulations aimed at preventing the kind of explosion that erupted nearly five years ago on BP PLC’s Deepwater Horizon rig, including provisions the industry has already adopted.
 
The Wall Street Journal: The Dirty Secret of Obama’s Carbon Plan
Americans don’t give much thought to whether their electricity will be there when they need it. You flip a switch, the lights go on. Your phone charges up. The medical equipment in the emergency room does its job. Yet electric reliability, long a bedrock of this country’s prosperity and high standard of living, does not come as easily as its steady presence might suggest.
 
CNBCWhat shuttering coal plants means for energy jobs
With new environmental rules looming this week, coal-driven power plants are closing all over the United States, and jobs are going with them. Utilities have been shuttering plants almost since regulatory changes were announced back in December 2011, but the number of closures has spiked recently, and several more plants are scheduled to close in the next few years.
 
ReutersU.S. shale oil output to fall in May, first drop in 4 years
Oil production from the fastest-growing U.S. shale plays is set to fall some 45,000 barrels per day to 4.98 million bpd in May from April, the first monthly decline in over four years, projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Monday.
 
CNBCOPEC slams oil producers with 'go-it-alone' attitudes
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries published a stinging critique on Monday of oil-producing countries that had refused to follow its lead in holding back supply in an effort to boost prices.
 
The Washington PostWhat environmentalists get wrong when they use the California drought to attack fracking
With the continual worsening of California’s drought, an odd argument — in some ways as much meme as argument — has arisen. It’s the notion that in the context of the drought, it’s important to cut back on the water used in industrial hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations in the state.
 
The Dallas Morning NewsA new era for nuclear power?
For decades the U.S. nuclear power industry has stood at a virtual standstill, a victim of economics and fears over safety. But as President Barack Obama prepares to roll out new carbon emission regulations targeting the power industry, nuclear companies are hoping a new era is upon them.
 
MarketWatch: Natural-gas market is ready to rally
Winter demand for natural gas has ended, but the fuel’s prospects for a price rally are just beginning. The U.S. natural-gas market has seen enough supply over the past year to “greatly reduce” the large storage deficit that followed last year, but there has also been enough cold weather to keep storage levels slightly below the five-year average, Tim Evans, energy futures specialist at Citi Futures, said in a weekly report issuedMonday.
 
The HillStates outpacing feds in safety regs for fracking
The Department of the Interior recently introduced a rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands to much fanfare. Stating the need to update 30-year-old regulations, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell characterized Interior’s action as taking the lead and giving the states an example to follow.
 
The HillEPA blasts GOP’s bill to change climate rule
The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee joined the Environmental Protection Agency Monday in criticizing the House GOP’s efforts to weaken the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants.
 
GallupAmericans Choose the Environment over Energy Development
About half of Americans (49%) say that protection of environment should be given priority, even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies, virtually unchanged from their sentiment last year. Fewer than four in 10 (39%) prioritize the development of U.S. energy supplies even if the environment suffers to some extent.
 
E&E PublishingBoth sides ready arguments for case that could scotch EPA power plant rule
Energy companies and 15 predominantly Republican-led states will press federal judges this week to halt President Obama's greenhouse gas standards for power plants.
 
ForbesUpstart Siluria Technologies Turns Shale Gas into Plastics and Gasoline
San Francisco-based startup Siluria Technologies has attracted $120 million in venture capital from the likes of Saudi Aramco on the promise that it has discovered a Holy Grail of the petrochemicals industry. Last month Siluria unveiled its new plant tucked in among dozens of giant petrochemical complexes on the Houston Ship Channel.
 
FuelFixOil firms may have to cut deeper than $126B, report says
The next round of oil-company earnings might show investors just how much firms still need to cut, even after executives stripped $126 billion from annual spending plans this year, a new report says.
 
FuelFixAs costs fall, companies may start completing wells again
Oil companies keeping thousands of barrels of crude off the market by drilling but not completing wells may soon start flooding the market again.
 
The HillTribes say no to Keystone
Native Americans are pressuring the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, warning the project could infringe on their water rights, harm sacred land and violate America’s treaty obligations. Tribes sent more than 100 pages of letters to the Interior Department earlier this year raising concerns about the project, which would carry oil sands from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
 
Billings GazetteSafety is TransCanada's top pipeline priority
I am writing on behalf of TransCanada to address concerns over the Keystone XL pipeline plans raised in an article appearing on your website on April 5 titled "After two Montana breaks, scrutiny builds over federal pipeline regs". TransCanada has worked with PHMSA in planning Keystone XL, and has voluntarily agreed to 59 new safety procedures. Among these, river crossing precautions have been paramount.
 
Associated PressTexas House set to vote on bill banning local fracking bans
The Texas Legislature is poised to take a major step toward wiping out a highly-publicized local ban on hydraulic fracturing approved by a college town near Dallas — and ensuring that other communities don't follow suit.
 
Durango HeraldFrackers average at least two violations a day
Fracking companies average more than 2½ violations a day, according to a study of just a small portion of the public record. The Natural Resources Defense Council studied online reports for Colorado, Pennsylvania and West Virginia covering five years.
 
Akron Beakon JournalMedina County group pushing community rights charter vote
A Medina County grass-roots group is launching a drive to adopt a new county charter with a community rights that might be used to block a planned natural gas pipeline.
 
The Wheeling Intelligencer‘Nuisance Oil’ Term in Contract Annoys Belmont County Landowner
Curtis Wallner is not sure what "nuisance oil" extracted via fracking is. Neither is a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees mineral extraction in the Buckeye State.
 
Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewGovernor Wolf appoints business recruiter to advise on energy and manufacturing
Gov. Tom Wolf has tapped Democrat and lawyer-lobbyist David Sweet to fill a new advisory position the governor says he established to stimulate growth and competition in Pennsylvania's energy and manufacturing industries.
 
The Bradford EraTrailblazing classes: Shale gas emergency training held in Smethport
History was made over the weekend in training classes at the Tri-County Fire School Inc. in Smethport. The two-day, 16-hour class, “Firefighting at Shale Gas Emergencies,” was conducted for the first time in Pennsylvania, noted Jack Fowler, president of the school, which this year marks its 50th anniversary of providing fire training to area volunteer and industrial firefighters.
 
Huntington NewsFracking Waste Chemicals Allegedly Found in WV Near Drinking Water Inputs
Dr Gupta, this open letter is to ask for your participation in the upcoming public hearing held by the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the permitting of two Lochgelly horizontal hydrofracturing (frack) waste injection wells that have been operating out of compliance, and unpermitted, for over a year, and to apprise you of the surrounding issue.
 
News & RecordProposed bill puts limit on fracking
A Piedmont Triad legislator has filed a bill that would prevent companies from being able to drill for natural gas on a person’s property without the landowner’s consent.
 
Maine Public BroadcastingMaine Governor Wants Nuclear Power Back on Energy Table
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has submitted legislation that would make it easier to site a small nuclear plant in Maine. The administration says it's time to update the law that governs siting of nuclear plants in the state.
 
Capital New YorkFracking protesters turn attention to Port Ambrose project
New York State's successful anti-fracking movement has found a new cause: Port Ambrose. The planned liquefied natural gas facility, to be built 19 miles off the coast of Long Island, has already generated vocal opposition from activists, residents and elected officials at rallies, hearings and in official correspondence.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                            No. 15-036

Contact: Grace Jang, Press Secretary – (907) 465-3976
Katie Marquette, Deputy Press Secretary – (907) 465-5801

 

Governor Walker Secures Promise from Legislative Leadership on Confirmation Votes

April 17, 2015 JUNEAU—Governor Bill Walker today revoked his proclamation to convene the House and Senate into a joint session today at 10 a.m. to vote on his appointments.

“I just wrapped up a meeting with House Speaker Mike Chenault and Senate President Kevin Meyer,” Governor Walker said. “They gave me their word that each of the 89 appointments would be given an up or down vote on Sunday. I trust them.”

Governor Walker said revoking the proclamation is an important step toward a positive relationship with legislative leadership.


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             No. 15-37

Contact: Grace Jang, Press Secretary – (907) 465-3976
Katie Marquette, Deputy Press Secretary – (907) 465-5801

 

Governor Walker Vetoes Bill That Ties Alaska’s Hands During Pipeline Negotiations

April 17, 2015 JUNEAU – Governor Bill Walker today vetoed HB 132, making good on a March 2 promise when the bill was introduced.

“This veto in no way means the end of discussions with legislative leadership,” Governor Walker said. “We continue to have multiple meetings to ensure AKLNG is successful and remains the priority while maintaining access to a backup option.”

HB 132 limits the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) from actively working on any gas line project other than the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (AKLNG) line. The State of Alaska is a partner in AKLNG along with TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP.

“We cannot have legislation that ties Alaska’s hands while we are trying to negotiate the best possible gas line deal for Alaskans,” Governor Walker said. “This bill prevents the state from having an adequate backup plan should the AKLNG efforts not proceed.”

Governor Walker also continues to meet with AKLNG partners to advance this project.  Governor Walker has said multiple times AKLNG remains his administration’s priority and having a backup option with the ASAP line will not interfere with the AKLNG project.

(Attached: Veto letters to House Speaker & Senate President; Governor’s veto signature)

###

Categories:

4-3-15 Gas Line Collision

03 April 2015 8:09am

AJOC by Tim Bradner  With about two weeks left on the clock, the 2015 session of the Legislature seems set to end with a big bang. A collision is shaping up between legislators and Gov. Bill Walker (NGP Photo) over the governor’s vision of a large state-led gas pipeline.

Notes from the road: We have little time to write while traveling (Today in L.A. on the way to Anchorage).  We do note that as the Alaska legislative session comes to an end our greatest concerns are:

  • Administration interference with Ak-LNG project by even talking about government involvement in a competing project; and
  • Administration support for a poorly thought out, government sponsored Interior Energy Project; and
  • Administration not using bully pulpit to support adequate spending cuts (i.e. the State Chamber calls them 'cosmetic') to create a sustainable government going forward...along with legislative proclivity to not cut spending due to last day 'trading' of special interest projects; and
  • Legislative initiative to create requirements for Regulatory Commission of Alaska to approve expensive, non-economically feasible alternative energy projects, subsidized by utility ratepayers (HB 78); and
  • In wake of low oil prices, lack of will to cut government spending, hostility of governor toward industry/legislature/Ak-LNG project, we anticipate the Governor working with certain constituencies to increase oil taxes within the next year or two.  Hoping this to be incorrect but fearing it isn't, we could foresee an "economic death spiral" wherein lack of spending discipline begets higher oil taxes, which begets lower oil industry capital spending, begetting lower production, which begets even lower state revenue, resulting in higher oil taxes, and so forth.  
  • Faced with such challenges, we believe Alaska's bright future can only unfold with leaders possessing wisdom, a spiritual connection with our creator and a commitment to become honest, effective communicators.

-dh

Categories:

4-1-15 Happy April Fools Day! Commentary: Are We The Fools?

31 March 2015 11:30pm

See National Ocean Policy Council Alert Here!

(Readers will understand the importance of this alert after reading today's commentary, below.  -dh)

See Part 4, Alaska Economic Report Below

Related Commentary: "The Sting"

Last Friday, former Alaska Legislator Beth Kerttula, posted this NEW OCEAN POLICY announcement

"Today, we are releasing the first Report on the Implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which highlights the progress we’ve made since we released an action plan last year. From supporting the ocean economy to ensuring the security of our ports and waterways, and from improving coastal and ocean resilience to providing local communities with tools to plan for a better future, we’ve made tremendous strides in undertaking our role as responsible stewards of this Nation’s great oceans.

"Among the activities described are a host of steps to promote sustainable energy development and aquaculture practices—including ensuring that permitting processes for these activities are...."

Here is a report from the private sector's "National Ocean Policy Coalition".  See Action Alert Here!

This massive undertaking -- which will ultimately affect all waterways feeding the Great Lakes and Oceans -- is a regulatory monster created by President Obama early in his first term.  See our original, 2009 report here.  See strategy of NOAA support here.

The oceans, Great Lakes, and all waterways and lands surrounding them are destined to be regulated under a new regime called, ecosystem-based management (EBM).

Our astute, NGP readers can just imagine the havoc that Obama, Kerttula and their massive grass roots constituencies can bring to America's traditional use of our waters.  

Not only does this effort threaten any natural resource activity in Alaska (i.e. which has 3/4 of America's coastline and over 3 million lakes, rivers and streams), but can severely affect every single American.  

The direct effects will be felt by commercial fishermen and others who make a maritime living--and even farmers whose activity on private land can be deemed to affect waters leading into lakes and oceans.  

Indirect effects will descend upon every American who will ultimately pay for the cost of this regulation and with more jobs exported to countries which do not have such regulatory obstacles.

The final insult to our way of life is that this whole, massive effort is unapproved and unfunded by Congress.  

Obama has done it all by Executive Order and memorandum.  It is run under the cover of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality and by his order, dozens of government agencies are indirectly funding the effort -- redirecting their own congressionally approved funds and people to this dangerous activity.

We believe that this is one of the greatest examples to date of Obama's unconstitutional usurpation of Congressional powers.

We also wonder why more Governors and Congressional Delegations are not literally handcuffing themselves to the White House fences until this sort of illegal activity ceases.

Until and unless relief from such usurpation comes from some as yet unidentified champion, we can only conclude that America's rule of law is finished and that we have entered a new era of elected fascists who create law out of thin air by the memorada edicts and Executive Orders.  

Oh, and about DOI's affirmation of Lease Sale 193 yesterday, good luck.

Yes, we have been set up and stung again and again; and this is the latest sting by this administration.

American citizens have, indeed, been played for fools by those they elected.

-dh

Commentary: "The Set Up".

Yesterday, the Department of the Interior issued a Record of Decision affirming Chukchi Sea OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 and the remaining oil and gas leases issued in 2008 as a result of the sale. Press release  (Comment: Now that DOI has finally validated its own lease sale  (i.e. and long ago accepted payment by industry), observers will now watch carefully to see if the regulators deny access through the permitting process.  We hope the outcome is not a statement months or even weeks from now to the effect that, "Our policy is that exploration and development should occur in these areas, but only under responsible conditions.  To date, those applying for permits have not demonstrated that exploration -- much less development -- can occur responsibly in these areas.  Accordingly, the applications for permits are denied."  -dh)


Fox Business News.  

The Alaska Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would temporarily restrict participation by a state-sponsored corporation in an alternate gas pipeline project proposed by Gov. Bill Walker.

The vote followed a failed attempt by legislative leaders and Walker to reach an agreement.

The vote was 13-7, but notice of reconsideration was given, meaning the bill could be voted on again before advancing. It passed the House last week.

Walker has said he would veto the bill. A legislative override would require the support of at least 40 legislators.


Our Quick Takes On Current Alaska Journal of Commerce Headlines:

Hilcorp Energy keeps up spending despite oil price slide  -  More respect and kudos to one of Alaska's great new companies.  -dh



From Brent Greenfield, National Ocean Policy Coalition (Mentioned in commentary, right column.  Please act today.  Note that our preference would be to defund the entire, ocean policy process completely and surgically remove all funding from all agencies devoted to supporting this unfunded government program.  You can support the NOPC letter but we would recommend separate letters to your Congressional delegations recommending total defunding.  -dh)

Our readers:

With Congress set to soon begin drafting bills to fund the federal government for FY 2016, and with National Ocean Policy implementation continuing and very potentially impactful actions currently slated for FY 2016, NOPC has drafted a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership in support of language that would achieve a 1-year pause in implementation of two of the policy's most concerning components.  Many of you have signed on to similar letters in the past, and your support is greatly appreciated. 
 
We are at a pivotal juncture with respect to policy implementation, and demonstrating the maintenance and broadening of support for a time-out will be critical to securing effective congressional action.  To that end, please review the draft text below and let us know by COB Wednesday, April 8 if we can add your organization's name as a signatory.  Also, please let us know if there are other organizations in your network that might be interested in signing on.  Thank you again for all your support.
 
Best,
Brent
 
 
Brent Greenfield
National Ocean Policy Coalition
2211 Norfolk
Suite 410
Houston, Texas 77098
 
 
DRAFT
 
Dear Chairmen Rogers and Cochran and Ranking Member Lowey and Vice Chairwoman Mikulski:
 
In connection with the drafting of legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016, the undersigned groups request your support for including language in all appropriations bills that ensures commercial and recreational interests spanning nearly every sector of the U.S. economy are not saddled with additional uncertainty or new regulatory hurdles as a result of implementation of two particular components of the July 2010 Executive Order establishing the National Ocean Policy. 
 
Among other things, the Executive Order directs a multitude of federal entities to participate in “Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning” (CMSP) in all nine U.S. coastal regions.  CMSP is described as a process "to better determine how the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes are sustainably used and protected," and the Interior Department has likened CMSP to a “national zoning plan” that “will serve as an overlay” in federal decisions.  Concerns are further heightened given that the geographic coverage of CMSP includes inland bays and estuaries and upland areas as new governmental “Regional Planning Bodies” deem appropriate, and since federal entities will “address priority…ocean management issues associated with marine planning as described in the Executive Order” regardless of whether all states in a region decide not to participate.
 
In addition to CMSP, the National Ocean Policy requires the federal government to implement “Ecosystem-Based Management” (EBM), which is described as a “fundamental shift” in how the U.S. manages ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.  Among other things, federal entities are required to “[i]ncorporate EBM into Federal agency environmental planning and review processes” by 2016.
 
Language adopted by the Executive Order states that effective National Ocean Policy implementation would “require clear and easily understood requirements and regulations, where appropriate, that include enforcement as a critical component,”and acknowledges that the policy “may create a level of uncertainty and anxiety among those who rely on these resources and may generate questions about how they align with existing processes, authorities, and budget challenges.”  In order to ensure that further implementation of some of the most concerning and potentially impactful aspects of an initiative that has not been authorized by Congress does not create additional regulatory uncertainty, result in new regulatory hurdles, or siphon away scarce federal dollars from critical and authorized activities, the undersigned groups respectfully request that all appropriations bills include language stating that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to further implementation of the coastal and marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management components of the National Ocean Policy developed under Executive Order 13547."
 
Including this language will provide Congress with an important opportunity to more closely examine the National Ocean Policy and the full range of its potential impacts before it is fully implemented.  In closing, we appreciate your attention to this issue and respectfully request inclusion of the proposed language in all Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bills. 
 
Sincerely,

Newsmax by Ken Mandel.  The Keystone pipeline project transports oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas via eight U.S. states. Completed in 2014, a shortcut known as the Keystone XL was approved by Congress the next year, but vetoed by President Barack Obama.

The debate continues to rage. Here are eight quotes from oil company executives, who stand to benefit from the pipeline's construction: 

1. "Anything could happen, we don't know, but we remain confident that when Keystone is ultimately built, it will be the safest pipeline that has ever been constructed in this country." — Andrew Craig, TransCanada's land manager for Keystone projects and development, told NBC News. 

Read More....


Forbes (3/27/15) editorializes: “This Saturday marks the seventh annual observance of “Human Achievement Hour,” a celebration of technology and prosperity hosted by my organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Originally created as an alternative to the World Wildlife Fund’s “Earth Hour” campaign (which urges people to turn off their lights in the name of environmental conservation), Human Achievement Hour counters widespread predictions of environmental and societal doom.”

Alaska Economic Update- Part 4  -  Parts 1-4 Here

Posted: 31 Mar 2015 11:21 AM PDT

By Mark Edwards

Today we wrap up our series on the Alaska Economic Update. Over the past three posts, we have looked at oil prices, jobs, and population. We wrap things up today with the housing marketing and the building environment. For the complete Alaska Economic Update as well as other important studies, visit our ‘Resources’ section.

Home lending activity flat - The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) released its third quarter report on Alaska housing indicators. It tracks new loan activity for single family homes and condominiums in Alaska.  The data is based on a survey representing approximately 95% of mortgage lenders in Alaska and also includes AHFC loans. The survey covered mortgage lending activity in the first nine months of 2014.

It reported 6,889 loans were originated statewide for single family homes and condominiums for a total amount of $1.8 billion. This is nearly identical to the volume in the first 9 months of 2013. Loans were done with an average down payment of 11% for the last five years.  Single family homes accounted for 87% of statewide mortgage lending activity with 52% of those loans occurring in Anchorage. The Mat-Su contributed 18% of the volume, 10% in Fairbanks, 8% in Kenai, 5% Juneau, 2% Kodiak, and 1% in Ketchikan.

10% of total mortgage activity for the quarter was for condominiums and only 3% was multi-family.  91% of condominiums were financed in Anchorage. Juneau accounted for 5%, and the Mat-Su, Kenai and Fairbanks 1%. 

Refinance activity slowed rapidly in 2014, but may rise as interest rates are falling again - 30 year conventional fixed interest rate mortgage loans have been getting less expensive for three decades.  In 1981 they peaked at 16.6% and have undergone a slow and steady decline ever since.  In early 2009 rates dipped under 5% on average for the first time and a surge in refinance activity began. 

According to AHFC statistics, there was less than $200 million in refinance loans completed per quarter in Alaska in 2006 and 2007.  In 2008, the average rose to $400 million.  Then in the first quarter of 2009 the activity spiked to $1.4 billion, followed by $1.2 billion in the second quarter.  During this time, the average 30 year interest rate declined nearly 1.5% in six months. 

Graph 1

The refinance pace slowed somewhat in the last half of 2009, but still finished the year with $3.7 billion in refinanced mortgage loans according to AHFC statistics.  In 2010, the refinance volume declined to $2.4 billion, followed by $2.1 billion in 2011.  2012 saw an unexpected decrease in interest rates again to an all-time historic low of 3.3% by the end of the year.  This led to an increase to $3.1 billion in refinance activity. 

Rates increased throughout 2013 and you can see on the far right of the graph, the result has been a steep drop off in refinance activity.  Rates began declining again last year and finished 2014 at 3.86% on average.  AHFC data is only available through the third quarter of 2014 at this time, so we have not yet seen the year end results.  Rates continued lower in February to 3.71%.  This should be a positive trend for both home sales and refinance activity this year.

Housing statistics still good relative to the U.S. – The recently released survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that Alaska continues to have some of the lowest levels of foreclosures and delinquencies on residential mortgage loans in the United States. Through the third quarter of 2014, Alaska ranked 5th and 7th best in the nation out of 50 states in foreclosures and delinquencies of all loan types.

The total inventory of foreclosures in process is 0.9% in Alaska, while the country has a much larger lingering foreclosure inventory at 2.4% due to higher rates during the recession and longer resolution times. These rates are an improvement from four years ago when Alaska’s rate was 1.4% and the U.S. foreclosure rate was 4.6%.

Delinquent loans are more than 30 days past due, but not yet in foreclosure. Alaska is fifth best behind North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Hawaii in the overall level of delinquent loans. Alaska’s delinquency rate is 3.6%, while the U.S. average is 6% for all loan types. This is an improvement for Alaska from 4.8% four years ago. The U.S. delinquency rate has also come down more dramatically from 9.4% at this time four years ago.

Graph 2

Subprime lending to traditionally non-qualified borrowers was a large contributing factor to the national mortgage problems. The survey covers 95,176 mortgages in Alaska. 6,110 or 6% were considered subprime, compared to 9% nationally. The rate of delinquencies and foreclosures on subprime loans is significantly higher. However, Alaska is in a far better position and again leads the nation as having the lowest level of foreclosures and is second in delinquencies for this important category. Subprime foreclosures in Alaska are at 2% while the national average is 9.8%. Alaska’s subprime delinquency rate is 9.4% compared to the national average of 19.3%.

Building permits up 430 units in 2014, but still historically low - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of building permits for new, privately owned housing of 1 to 5 unit buildings remained low for the 8th straight year.  It had been under 1,000 units since 2007, but in 2013 it grew 9% to 1,081.  Last year saw a dramatic jump up to 1,509.  However, this is still half the level seen 10 years ago.

Growth in single family homes increased from 877 to 1,114 last year.  The number of duplexes permitted fell from 66 to 50.  The number of structures with three or four living units decreased slightly from 49 to 45.

The other major growth area beyond single family homes was in multi-family.  The number of structures with five or more units climbed from 10 in 2013 to 33 in 2014.  In terms of housing units that meant a growth from 87 to 300 last year.  The biggest challenge has been making new construction affordable enough to meet buyer’s income levels.  There is a shortage of low cost housing in Anchorage.  Vacancy factors are very low and the number of existing homes under $350,000 is in short supply.  It appears builders have started to take more risk in this market segment, likely aided to some extent by government subsidy programs.  Anchorage is expected to follow other growing cities by becoming denser, building vertical and redeveloping older properties.

Graph 3

Graph 4

Categories:

3-20-15 Alaskan and Canadian Energy Investors Face a Competitive New World

20 March 2015 7:46am

See this week's Petroleum News, just released.

Compared to Russian and Canadian Arctic energy initiatives, U.S. efforts are pathetic.  Russia's Arctic power could well influence competitive factors discussed below in ways detrimental to the world's democracies.  Read more....    -dh 


Decision makers: look below, and ignore the competitive, new, worldwide oil & gas market at your own peril and at the risk of removing opportunities from your succeeding generation of young, hopeful, ambitious children that you and your friends enjoyed.  -dh

Today, an energy analyst friend privately opines on natural gas pricing, which should be of some interest to potential investors in a $40 - 60 billion Alaska natural gas pipeline--as well as Canadian project participants.  Read below.

We hasten to add that natural gas supply and pricing is still not as "world-wide fungible" as oil.  

Until now, the North American gas market has focused almost completely on North American supply/demand factors...unlike oil which has traded within a fairly narrow worldwide price range--offsetting U.S. prices somewhat because of the multi-decade crude oil export ban.  

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski yesterday stressed the economic and national security benefits of ending the 1975 federal ban on exporting domestically produced crude oil at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  See the video, also featuring ConocoPhillips Chairman & CEO Ryan Lance (NGP Photo).  

However, because of extensive, competing world-wide LNG export projects, the continuing expansion of world-wide shale technology, and the increasing attraction of natural gas for power generation it is probably only a matter of time before we approach a worldwide pricing range and supply balance for natural gas.  

Investors must absorb and interpret these rapidly changing and multi-dimensional factors as they consider different lease sale bidding strategies and varied projects in different jurisdictions with wide-ranging rules and risks.  This reality makes it essential that Alaska's and Canada's energy decision makers (i.e. our readership base) retreat from unpredictable, greedy and provincial tax, royalty, regulatory policies and lavish spending practices--which affect tax policies.  

Everywhere, those blessed with oil and gas supply should keep one eye on the competition and one eye on reducing public spending to sustainable, essential levels.   See yesterday's examples, "Lessons For Alaska From Canada".    -dh


Our energy analyst friend writes, "Natural gas has seemingly had a lot going for it in the past year:

  • The US came out of last winter at record low inventories
  • Pipelines keep getting added and redirected to distribute natural gas to hungry markets (although slowly)
  • The weather has been brutal east of the Rockies, all the way into the South
  • More gas keeps displacing coalmoving to Mexico, and benefiting slightly from a modestly improving economy
  • The number of gas (and especially oil) rigs has dropped off big-time

"Despite it all, natural gas is in the doldrums  price-wise. The HH is $2.83, and some recent negative basis-priced gas has sold for 99 cents.  The worst of it all, however, is that it is hard to see the end of the “tunnel”. There is no futures monthly price that hits $4 until 2022."


For our Alaskan and Canadian decision maker friends: here is the face of worldwide oil & gas competition from Energypedia:

GoM: Statoil adds acreage in the Gulf of Mexico Central Lease Sale
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/gulf-of-mexico/new-162961?editionid=101595

Brazil: Petrobras breaks record for well drilling depth in Sergipe-Alagoas Basin http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/brazil/new-162960?editionid=101595

Ophir Energy announces full year results - updates operations  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/general/new-162959?editionid=101595

Tower Resources announces corporate update
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/general/new-162958?editionid=101595

Trinidad: Range Resources announces Trinidad operational update 
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/trinidad/new-162957?editionid=101595

Iran upstream could be open for business this year
http://www.energy-pedia.com/ajax.aspx?advertid=11045&referurl=http://www.af
razadvisers.com/toolkit.html&editionid=101595

Colombia: Anadarko awards CGG the largest proprietary 3D marine seismic survey in Colombia
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/colombia/new-162956?editionid=101595
 
Bulgaria’s Mizia Oil and Gas awarded four exploration blocks in Bulgaria  <http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/bulgaria/new-162955?editionid=101595>

UK: Britain hands lifeline to North Sea oil industry with tax cuts  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/united-kingdom/new-162954?editionid=101595

UK: Grangemouth operator INEOS begins fracking consultation  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/united-kingdom/new-162953?editionid=101595

Australia: Gardline CGG to acquire Gippsland 2D infill seismic survey for Geoscience Australia  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/australia/new-162952?editionid=101595

US shale oil firms brace for more pain as crude resumes slide  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/usa/new-162951?editionid=101595  

UK Budget lays strong foundations for regeneration of the UK North Sea  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/united-kingdom/new-162950?editionid=101595
Oil & Gas UK welcomes the Chancellor’s decisive move to restructure the North Sea tax regime ....

GoM: Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 235 yields $539 million in high bids on nearly one million acres in Central Planning Area http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/gulf-of-mexico/new-162949?editionid=101595

Canada: Conoco to cut 7 percent of Canadian workforce
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/canada/new-162948?editionid=101595  ConocoPhillips plans to cut about 7 percent ... as tumbling oil prices have made its operations in the country less profitable.

Israel's Tamar group to sell gas to Egypt via pipeline
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/israel/new-162947?editionid=101595.  A group of private customers in Egypt has agreed to buy at least $1.2
billion of natural gas from Israel's ....

Iraq: Gulf Keystone ramping up Shaikan production
http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/iraq/new-162946?editionid=101595  

Morocco: Mubadala Petroleum signs geological study agreement with Morocco  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/morocco/new-162945?editionid=101595

Indonesia: Statoil awarded new licence offshore Indonesia  http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/indonesia/new-162944?editionid=101595


While the U.S. administration characteristically fumbles with global warming and Arctic regulatory issues, Russia -- and to a similar but smaller degree, Canada -- moves out smartly to take the initiative while establishing and enforcing jurisdiction -- and sovereignty.  More below....  -dh

Barents Observer by Atle Staalesen.  As Russia is unfolding a major combat alert drill in its Northern Fleet, the country’s government approves the setup of a new federal Arctic Commission. Headed by hardline Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Commission will coordinate all government authorities involved in regional developments.

Included in the Commission mandate are issues of social, economic, political, as well as military, importance, newspaper Kommersant reports.

...

Rogozin will have five Commission deputies to his disposal: Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Energy Aleksandr Novak, Minister of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukaev, Minister of Transport Maksim Sokolov and Deputy Secretary of the national Security Council Vladimir Nazarov. A total of 60 people will be included in the new structure, among them representatives of the oil and gas industry, the ministry of Defence, the FSB, the Presidential Administration and regional governors.

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