The selling of drilling rights is the culmination of one of the most important environmental battles in the world.
Donald Trump’s administration will sell off portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drills on Wednesday in one of the recent blows to the American wilderness.
The auction is the culmination of one of the largest environmental battles in the country. The land in the northern coastal plain of Alaska is home to breeding polar bears and migrant herds of prickly caribou that are dependent on and considered sacred by indigenous peoples.
But the oil industry has long believed that billions of barrels of oil are in the soil underneath the plain.
It will be difficult to recover the leases in the shelter, known as ANWR, once they are leased to energy firms. However, by placing regulatory barriers in the way of drilling companies, new President Joe Biden could prevent the creation of the refuge.
In the face of an accelerating climate crisis, the sanctuary has become central to the U.S. debate about how quickly to avoid fracking and burning fossil fuels.
Climate scientists claim that because the earth is now more than 1 degree warmer than in pre-industrial times, there should be no new oil and gas production. The world will continue to heat up even though people stopped using fossil fuels today.
In Prudhoe Bay, oil from wells west of the sanctuary has stimulated economic growth that the state relies on to fill its coffers and give residents annual tax checks. That rise also led to the most destructive oil spill in history when, in 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled millions of barrels off the southern coast of Alaska.
Prudhoe Bay “was the largest oil field in North America ever found.”
Since then, in the Alaskan Arctic, we’ve had more than 1,500 square miles of oil and gas production… but [ANWR] has been off-limits,’ said Adam Kolton, Alaska Wilderness League executive director.
It symbolises, to us, what is at stake here.
If you can’t draw a tundra line and keep one part of the Arctic off limits, then the question is where you can draw the line and what protected section of the wilderness area in the United States remains off limits.
President Dwight Eisenhower designated the Arctic Sanctuary in 1960, and as the U.S. tried to minimize its dependency on Middle Eastern suppliers, industry and Republicans pressed for fracking there in the decades that followed. Even though oil is now abundant, the drive continues and a shale boom has made the U.S. a net exporter rather than an importer.
In the U.S., Republicans In 2017, Congress and Alaska accomplished their goal by adding a clause to permit fracking into Trump’s landmark tax law.
Trump and Congressional Republicans claimed that government income from refugee drilling could help pay for planned tax cuts that have helped companies and wealthier Americans. They said that the development would bring in $900 million, but an analysis based on historical bidding data by the nonpartisan advocacy organization Taxpayers for Common Sense found that it would bring in just a fraction of that amount – not more than $27.6 million. That will be divided between the state of Alaska and the federal government.
“The fact that this was offered as a settlement was definitely disingenuous at best, and we thought it was just kind of a joke,” said Autumn Hanna, the group’s vice president.
Common Sense taxpayers have proposed that public land for oil and gas exploration should not be leased by the government now, because costs for those resources are low and stocks are high globally.
Oil demand has fallen since the pandemic, as businesses have closed and people have driven less.
We’re not opposed to oil and gas exploration, so we’re against taxpayer shortages,”We’re not against oil and gas drilling, but we are against shortchanging taxpayers,”
Industry interest in exploiting new oil fields is so limited that some have indicated there could be no offers for some Coastal Plain lands. Former governors Frank Murkowski and Bill Walker urged the state itself to bid on unwanted tracts, and a state economic development company voted last week to authorize up to $20 million in bids.
“If there are no lease sales bidders, Alaska will definitely never be able to realize our capacity for oil and gas from d