Biden Admin. Cancels Alaska Oil and Gas Leases

    Biden Admin. Cancels Alaska Oil and Gas Leases
    Last updated Sep 07, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • The US government on Wednesday announced it will terminate the seven remaining oil and gas leases — issued under former president Donald Trump — in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
    • In a statement, the Dept. of the Interior added the Biden admin. will prohibit new leasing in 10.6M acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
    • The state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority bought the 10-year leases — covering 365K acres — in the Refuge's coastal plain as part of a 2021 sale, which the Biden admin. claims violated federal law.
    • Pres. Biden, who has pledged to protect the 9.6M-acre (7.9M-hectare) Refuge, said it was his government's responsibility "to protect this treasured region for all ages" amid a climate crisis that is warming the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the world.
    • In 2020, the Trump administration opened up part of the Refuge to oil and gas development — a move that overturned 60 years of protective measures for the largest piece of untouched wilderness left in the US.
    • Wednesday's announcement came after the Biden admin. approved earlier this year the Willow oil drilling project by ConocoPhillips, Alaska's largest crude oil producer. This project could produce up to 180K barrels of oil per day in the Reserve.


    Establishment-critical narrative

    The decision, while laudable, also points to Pres. Biden's deeply disappointing climate record with regard to oil and gas leasing. While the federal government is now praising itself, it has approved the Willow oil drilling project and is expected to announce a significant new offshore leasing plan soon. With its half-hearted actions, his administration is failing to live up to its responsibility to future generations. The only way to maintain its credibility is to use its authority to halt all new fossil fuel projects.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    The move shows that the Biden admin. is serious about climate and environmental protection, along with honoring the rights of Alaska's indigenous communities. While the federal government is bound by the 2017 tax law that provides more leases for the Arctic, its decision has made the climate ultimately safer. Climate and environmental protection may be a long road fraught with setbacks, but Pres. Biden has responded to the challenge with the most ambitious agenda in US history.

    Narrative C

    Wednesday's push may be welcome news, but as some areas of the Reserve are among the richest oil deposits in the US, developing them is an essential source of revenue and jobs, especially for the region's native communities. In addition, Pres. Biden's decision could make the country even more dependent on oil imports, which could ironically cause more planet-warming emissions than Alaska-produced crude. It also remains to be seen whether the decision will stand in court.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that the US crude oil production will reach 13M barrels per day by May 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Sign up to our newsletter!