Jennifer Granholm

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm listens to remarks during a roundtable discussion Aug. 19 in Farmington, New Mexico, about energy development. 

The U.S. Energy Secretary tells Alaskans that they see the “code red flashing lights” of climate change. Sen. Dan Sullivan urges the Biden administration to tap more of Alaska’s energy resources. And the past president of Alaska’s only tribal college will lead Native diversity at the University of Alaska.

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

Energy Secretary Granholm: ‘You are Alaska’

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm described her recent Alaska visit as a learning experience that may help the nation and world solve the problems of climate change.

At Chena Hot Springs Resort, Granholm gave a post-lunch speech that recognized proprietor Bernie Karl for hosting an annual clean energy fair, as well as Alaska innovators for “micro-level” solutions that may well benefit mankind.

Here is an excerpt from her opening remarks, which tied together for the packed room the resort’s geothermal plant, salmon runs and “the world’s troubles right now.”

“I am here to learn. Thank you, Bernie, so much for educating me. This geothermal project … It is exactly what the doctor ordered,” said Granholm, who was unshakened and stirred by meetings with climate scientists and innovators.

“Sen. Murkowski was just so great in setting up two days for me and my team here in Alaska. And, of course, she said, ‘You have to come for this renewable energy fair. And, of course, you have to meet Bernie, and, of course, you have to have an appletini.’

‘And, of course, you have got to see the permafrost tunnel and the cold climate housing research center. And tomorrow we’ve got a full day as well. I want you to know Anchorage is waiting for us tomorrow.’

“I am so grateful to be able to learn,” Granholm said. “So that is why as secretary of energy, coming with a sense of, I want to say, with a sense of deep humility, because of what you are doing and what you have been doing to be able to educate not just me but the rest of the country in how to find the solutions that are necessary for the nation and the world’s troubles right now, when it comes to climate change.

“All of you here are aficionados of clean and renewable energy technology … You all saw the code red flashing lights of what was coming upon us so quickly. And, you are Alaska.

“You have been learning faster than any other state. You see it firsthand. You see it with the salmon and the chum. You see it with the permafrost thaw; you see, you see it all around. The bottom line is you got the solutions, and we want to learn from you.”

Sen. Sullivan: Alaska can meet U.S. energy needs

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan urged Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to use Alaska’s natural resources to meet America’s energy needs, including with critical minerals for electric cars and other smart technologies.

“Alaska is an all-of-the-above energy powerhouse, including [for] geothermal, hydropower, on-and-offshore oil and natural gas, wind, solar and mineral production,” Sullivan wrote in a letter welcoming the energy secretary on her first official Alaska visit.

Sullivan noted the energy contributions from the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline, a conduit for more than 18 billion barrels of oil. “The U.S. has grown from an energy importer to a dominant global energy producer,” Sullivan said.

But the senator took exception to Biden administration energy policies that limit Alaska oil drilling and gas leases on federal lands. “We have the highest environmental standards in the world. If the world needs more oil, the Biden administration should ask Alaska first,” he wrote.

Sullivan urged the energy secretary to prioritize the Alaska LNG natural gas project He also put in a plug for critical minerals, saying production should take place here, and not with adversaries like China, which dominates the market.

“We have these critical minerals in abundance in Alaska from Bokan Mountain, the Northern Alaska Range, Kuskokwim-White Mountains, Darby Hogatza, to the Graphite One deposit, and other gold, silver, lead and zinc mines, like Red Dog, Fort Knox, Kensington, Donlin and Greens Creek,” Sullivan said.

Earthjustice: ‘We must keep Arctic oil in the ground’

Environmental groups heralded a federal judge’s ruling that put the brakes on a major North Slope oil project.

Earthjustice attorney Jeremy Lieb lauded the ruling by Judge Sharon Gleason in U.S. District Court in Alaska that invalidated permits for ConocoPhillips’ $6 billion crude oil Willow project.

The 110-page ruling voided Trump-era approvals, which the Biden administration had defended in court.

“We are hopeful that the administration won’t give the fossil fuel industry another chance to carve up this irreplaceable Arctic landscape with drilling rigs, roads and pipelines,” Lieb said.

“We must keep Arctic oil in the ground if we want a livable planet for future generations,” he said.

Former tribal college president to lead UA’s Native diversity

The immediate past president of Alaska’s only tribal college is the new leader of Alaska Native success, diversity and inclusion at the University of Alaska.

Dr. Pearl K. Brower, formerly president of Ilisagvik College, will serve as UA senior adviser for Alaska Native Success, Institutional Diversity and Student Engagement. She reports directly to interim UA President Pat Pitney.

Brower has a built-in UAF network. She completed her undergraduate and advanced degrees at University of Alaska Fairbanks, which are a double bachelor’s, master’s and a Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies.

Under Pitney’s leadership, UA has pledged to better serve Alaska Native, Black, Indigenous and other students, staff and faculty of color. Brower’s appointment reflects that commitment, UA leaders say.

Brower’s role includes cultivating partnerships between the UA system and the Alaska Federation of Natives, regional Native corporations and foundation partners.

“The university offers an amazing, culturally diverse student body, but we can do more to incorporate who we are as Native people into all areas of university life and learning,” Brower said.

Were Alaska Air employees who died vaccinated?

The vaccine status of three Alaska Air employees who recently died after contracting Covid-19 is the subject of media speculation.

The three employees, which include an Alaska-based airline pilot, most likely were not vaccinated, the Seattle Times reported. Alaska Air declined to comment on personal health information of the employees.

Capt. Eric Moss of Anchorage, 53, died this week after being diagnosed with the virus. A mechanic based in San Francisco and a customer service agent in Seattle passed away in July.

Alaska Air encouraged its 20,000 employees to get the coronavirus shot and is considering a vaccine mandate. Alaska Air brought back a mask requirement for employees in company buildings since a spike in the highly contagious delta variant.

Employees are asked to add their names to a vaccine registry. The registry is voluntary, but anyone who does not submit the information will be considered unvaccinated, according to Management Training News.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.