Two Interior politicians offered their endorsements in the special U.S. House race. The former chief of the Permanent Fund has a new position outside of Alaska. And the U.S. energy secretary meets with Big Oil CEOs. There’s more news in “Five Things to Know.”
Interior politicians endorse Peltola
Two U.S. House candidates from the Interior who did not advance in the special election primary are endorsing Mary Peltola. “I will totally support Mary Peltola,” said Fairbanks Democrat Adam Wool Thursday after pulling out of the election, which is to fill the seat that Rep. Don Young held for nearly a half-century.
Wool also is not seeking another term in office as a state lawmaker after serving for eight years. Santa Claus, the North Pole council member who finished sixth in the special primary, said Thursday that “it’s likely that Alaska’s Division of Elections will include only three candidates on our Special Election ballot.
If true on 6-25, I’ll tweet you my heartfelt thank you video and invite you to vote for Mary Peltola, who shares many of my progressive views.”
Peltola has collected endorsements from other candidates who did not advance in the special House race, including Chris Constant, Emil Notti and Mike Miligan.Peltola, Nick Begich and Sarah Palin are the top finishers in Alaska’s first nonpartisan primary. Alaskans will decide the winner in the special general election on Aug. 16. Under Alaska’s new system of ranked-choice voting, Alaskans will list the candidates by order of preference.
In the special election primary that just ended, Palin had a substantial lead over the other two candidates. Palin drew 43,577 voters to Begich’s 30,551 and Peltola’s 16,218. Al Gross, who collected 20,371 votes, withdrew from the race.
From Permanent Fund to Pepper
Angela Rodell, former director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., has been named senior advisor at Pepper, a fin-tech company that offers an asset management platform. The platform uses data to drive results and inform investors and financial managers. Rodell will serve as senior advisor to CEO Pulak Sinha for the New York-based company. Her role will include introducing the platform to new markets and representing the customer before company leadership, according to a press statement by Pepper.” Angela’s experience, wisdom, and deep knowledge of the investment management side of the business is a boon for Pepper,” said Sinha, who also is a co-founder of Pepper.
Rodell most recently was the executive director of Alaska’s investment fund, which was valued at $77.5 billion on June 22, according to the daily market values listed on the corporation’s website.
Under Rodell’s leadership, the fund experienced historic growth. Assets grew from $51 billion to more than $83 billion in five years.
Rodell was abruptly fired from her position in December 2021 by the board of trustees who oversee the corporation. In a letter to lawmakers, Rodell accused Gov. Mike Dunleavy of orchestrating her removal, an allegation the governor denied.
UA faculty hold rally at Capitol
University of Alaska faculty, who are in protracted contract negotiations with the administration, rallied at the capitol in Juneau to call attention to the talks.
Attending the rally were members of the United Academics, which comprised the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers Local 4996.
Federal mediators are monitoring the talks between both sides. In April, the university offered pay raises of 3%, 2.5% and 2% over three years starting July 1.
The union for the faculty is seeking raises of 3% or the current consumer price index. The faculty wants up to a 5% raise next academic year, and 7% in the 2024 academic year.
Further complicating negotiations was the action by the university in Mary to send its proposed wage increase to the Alaska Legislature so that it could be included in the budget adopted for fiscal 2023. Leadership cited an impasse in negotiations, which the union then disputed.
Oil CEOs meet with Granholm
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm met with CEOs from America’s top oil and gas companies this week over high prices at the pump for consumers.
Leaders from Exxon Mobil, BP and Chevron met with Granholm at the White House as gas prices per gallon topped $5.25 in Fairbanks and averaged close to $5 nationally. Gas costs almost $2 more per gallon than this time last year.
Chevron CEO Mike Wirth described the meeting with Granholm as “a constructive conversation about addressing both near-term issues and the longer-term stability of energy markets.
President Biden this week called on oil companies to increase their refining capacity, as demand remains high and supplies tight. Biden also called for a three-month gas tax holiday, which members of Congress rebuffed.
After the meeting with Granholm, the American Petroleum Group issued a statement calling the discussion positive. The American Petroleum Group said the administration’s actions this week send “a positive signal to the market that the U.S. is committed to long-term investment in a strong U.S. refining industry and aligning policies to reflect that commitment.”
Smart robots, computer vision in mining
Mining companies are expecting to increase investments in artificial intelligence, as operators look to the efficiencies and safety of automation.
Forty percent of mining operations expect to increase their investments in AI through 2024. “Within five years, the deployment of AI will be essential to the survival of companies of all sizes across all sectors,” Mining Technology reports.
As mining operations move into more remote locations, there is a need for greater control over costs as well as managing environmental practices and ensuring the safety of workers.
Innovations include the use of so-called smart robots, computer vision, data science to understand resources, and machine learning.
Globally, Australian companies appear to be investing the most in advanced technologies with the use of drones, autonomous vehicles and mining software.