Fueling Controversy: Biden's Decision Ignites MAJOR Debate Over Energy Independence

By Maria Angelino | Thursday, 25 April 2024 01:00 AM
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In a significant move towards environmental conservation, the Biden administration has recently announced two major decisions that have been hailed as victories by environmental activists.

The administration has decided to halt new oil and gas leasing on 13 million acres within Alaska’s federal petroleum reserve, a move aimed at protecting local wildlife, including caribou and polar bears. Additionally, the development of the “Ambler Road,” a 211-mile access road that would have facilitated mining companies to reach leased land for mineral development, has also been blocked.

The Sierra Club, a prominent environmental organization, has lauded the decision as a “major victory.” The decision effectively bans oil and gas drilling in almost half of the Alaska petroleum reserve, a 23 million-acre public land initially intended as a national emergency oil supply for the US Navy, established in the early 1920s.

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Despite the persistently high pump prices that disproportionately affect the working poor, President Biden has consistently been canceling and terminating energy development leases, as evidenced by several such decisions in 2023.

The decisions have drawn criticism from Alaska’s entire Congressional delegation. “Closing off NPR-A is a significant setback for Alaska, failing to strike a balance between the need for gap oil and natural gas and legitimate environmental concerns, and overriding the voices of many Alaska Natives in the decision-making process,” stated Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, in a joint statement issued by the three-member delegation. She further added that the decision on the Ambler Road was premature and that Alaska's wealth of natural resources could be responsibly developed to boost domestic manufacturing and innovation.

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These decisions come at a time when U.S. crude oil prices have surged by 15% year to date due to increased demand, tighter supplies resulting from OPEC+ production cuts, and escalating political risks in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

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The land area blocked from development by President Biden, totaling 13 million acres or 20,000 square miles, is slightly smaller than West Virginia. The primary energy development in the area is the Willow project, owned by ConocoPhillips. The project, scheduled to open in 2029, will now face no competition.

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ConocoPhillips has stated that the Willow project will generate $8-17 billion more in federal tax revenues, create thousands of jobs, and produce 600 million barrels of oil over the project’s lifetime. With the price of a barrel of oil currently at approximately $87, the total value of the project is estimated to be $52.2 billion.

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John Podesta, senior adviser to the president for international climate policy, praised the decisions, stating that they would conserve Alaska lands for future generations. “The Biden-Harris administration has now protected more than 41 million acres of lands and waters across the country, leaving a significant mark on the history of American conservation,” Podesta said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, the Biden administration has assured the public that it will take all necessary measures to keep gas prices low. However, the drilling ban in the Western Arctic has been criticized by Alaska Natives as it impacts a significant portion of the NPR-A land. Almost all Alaskan citizens typically receive an annual check for their share of state dividends from energy proceeds, a program known as the “Permanent Fund Dividend.” Last year, the checks were for $1,312.

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The decision to halt drilling is aimed at protecting animal species from the impacts of global warming on the Arctic. Despite the skepticism surrounding predictions about ice melt, extinction, and rising sea levels, the move reflects the administration's commitment to addressing climate change.

In an attempt to control prices during the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, President Biden sold half of America’s ‘Strategic Petroleum Reserve’ and has faced challenges in refilling it due to rising gas prices.

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