Biden's infrastructure plan

President Joe Biden unveils his infrastructure plan in Pittsburgh on March 31, 2021. 

While a surge in Covid commanded the attention of Alaska and the nation, political and military leaders continued to conduct the nation’s business.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called for the House to pass a major infrastructure bill that she said will bring more jobs to Alaska.

Congress approved legislation for a cost-of-living increase to veterans’ benefits. And military leaders consider Air Force deployments with Australia, after joint military exercises at Eielson Air Force Base.

There’s more in “Five Things to Know.”

Murkowski builds infrastructure support

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined four other GOP senators Friday to urge the U.S. House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“Passage of the historic bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Monday would be a great victory for the American people,” said Murkowski, noting that the sweeping legislation will fund improvements to roads, bridges, ports and broadband.

She said the legislation will bring long-term economic growth to Alaska and the rest of the nation “without raising taxes on everyday Americans or increasing inflation.”

Joining Murkowski in calling for House passage of the Senate-backed legislation are GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah.

“Importantly, this bipartisan bill is a testament to what Congress can achieve when we put partisanship aside and focus on moving the country forward,” Murkowski said.

Veterans’ benefits headed for increase

Legislation that gives a cost-of-living increase for veterans' benefits passed Congress and is awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature.

The increase is expected to become effective for checks going out in December.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act passed this week in the House. A Senate version was adopted this summer.

The legislation ties the COLA adjustment for veterans benefits to a planned increase in Social Security benefits.

The amount of the increase is still uncertain and is expected to be announced next month.

The COLA adjustment for veterans covers disability compensation, clothing allowances and indemnity benefits, among other payouts.

Alaska is among four states where the number of veterans tops 10% of the population. The other states are Montana, Virginia and Wyoming.

Deployments Down Under

America’s military leaders are leaving their options open on which aircraft will be involved in rotational deployments with Australia.

At an Air Force Association conference, Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said that “what we have available to us, we will” send to Australia.

The U.S. and Australia are strengthening their partnership through deployments, as well as sharing logistics and maintenance efforts. Australian military planes recently were at Eielson Air Force Base in greater Fairbanks for exercises.

The U.S. “occasionally sends planes to the continent (Australia) for routine bomber deployments meant to deter regional adversaries like China,” the Air Force Times reported.

Demand recovery for oil?

The commodity trading company Trafigura is predicting that oil prices could reach $100 per barrel.

Jeremy Weir, CEO of Trafigura, said that higher prices are necessary to “incentivize” investment.

A demand rebound and tight supply are expected to contribute to rising prices, Weir said.

“You need higher prices to incentivize … and also maybe to build on the cost of carbon in the future as well,” Weir said at the FT Commodities Global Summit.

Environment for Arctic oil

ConocoPhillips and TotalEnergies are considering expansions for fossil fuel production in the Arctic region, reports Bloomberg News.

Oil and gas production in the region is predicted to increase by 20% over the next five years, according to a study by Reclaim Finance, a non-profit environmental group.

Reclaim Finance asserts that the world’s top banking institutions continue to finance explorations, as the region thaws from climate change.

The advocacy group’s stated mission is “to shift the world’s largest financial institutions away from fossil fuels.”

Reclaim Finance has a focus on protecting the Arctic environment, stating that “as the Arctic melts faster, its fossil fuel reserves are becoming more accessible.”

More oil and gas projects in the Arctic are “undermining the region’s vital role in cooling down the planet,” the group states on its website.

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