July 29, 2021

Joe Biden defends giant oil drilling in Alaska

In the vastness of the steppe of Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, one should distinguish east from west. In the East, we discover the extraordinary region of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a natural sanctuary as large as the seventh in France, where Donald Trump tried to grant oil drilling permits in the last days of his mandate. . Joe Biden suspended them upon taking office.

To the west, there is another exceptional region, a little larger, also owned by the American federal state and just as inaccessible but with a less pleasant name: the Alaska National Oil Reserve. This was established in 1923 by President Harding, to eventually supply fuel to the Navy, which abandoned coal in favor of fuel oil.

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And in this area, Joe Biden, who says he has made the fight against global warming one of his major objectives, is much less observant: the administration of the Democratic president defended, Wednesday, May 26, the operating permits granted by its predecessor in October 2020 to the oil firm ConocoPhillips (exploratory drilling took place under Barack Obama in 2016, the discoveries were announced in 2017).

Several environmental and indigenous groups accuse federal authorities of not having properly assessed the impact of the project on flora and fauna, including caribou migration and polar bear habitat, as well as on global warming. They blame the project for threatening Inuit subsistence hunting and fishing. But in a 61-page memo filed on May 26 the Biden administration is working to refute their arguments. The New York Times is moved by it, in a long article which notes that “Biden’s changes to fossil fuels collide with his commitments on climate change”.

Political and economic arguments

In reality, this authorization, granted in October 2020, just before the presidential election, had gone unnoticed in the press, the politicization of the debate concerning above all the arctic wildlife refuge.

The arrival of Joe Biden to power, and the appointment of Deb Haaland to the decisive post of Minister of the Interior, in charge of the supervision of federal lands, threatened the project: this Indian Pueblo native of New Mexico had declared herself opposed to the ConocoPhillips project called Willow, in 2020 when she was a parliamentarian.

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