Is Biden admin right to suspend Alaskan oil and gas drilling leases?


Fact Box

  • On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, the Biden administration suspended the lease in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 
  • On Monday, August 17, 2020, the Trump administration pushed to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that was originally opened up for oil development in 2017.
  • Alaska Governor, Michael Dunleavy said drilling in ANWR would create jobs and boost the state’s economy, which is heavily reliant on oil production.
  • President Reagan first recommended drilling in 1987, but efforts to drill were continuously defeated by Democrats until 2017, when the Republican Party used its control of both houses of Congress to pass a bill authorizing lease sales. 
  • Gray wolves, caribou, and polar bears are native to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 19.6 million acres. These lands are vital to the indigenous Gwich’in people, who have relied on the landscape for years.

Andrew (Yes)

The Alaskan wilderness is genuinely one of the last frontiers on our planet. The Biden Administration's decision to reverse the unnecessary and potential environmentally damaging policy of the previous administration sends a signal to the world that protecting our environment is a high priority. This is 'American Exceptionalism' at its best; America taking the lead, saying we'll stand up for this region. This sends a powerful signal to other nations that addressing climate change is possible and will help to move those worried about economic or political concerns to action.

Banning drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge makes sense from a business perspective as well. When Former President Trump opened the area for leases, few energy companies expressed any interest, with many opting instead to invest in renewables and other technology. As crude oil prices have slumped since peaking around 2008, many companies have realized they need to diversify their production to other means, making Arctic drilling expensive and unnecessary. Also, when Former President Trump opened the area, several large banks announced they would not fund investments in this region. As activist investors and ordinary citizens have expressed their will for energy companies to leave the oil in the ground, many are finally waking up to the fact that Arctic drilling makes no sense. Finally, no company wants its reputation associated with oil-covered polar bears if a spill or other accident were to happen. By banning this drilling, the Biden administration is simply confirming what energy companies, investors, and the general public already know; Arctic drilling is bad for business, as well as bad for the environment.

Heather (No)

The Biden administration is not right to suspend Alaskan oil and gas drilling leases because there is an urgent need to end US dependency on foreign oil and gas. These leases strengthen the Alaskan economy, and they are legally binding and valid. Although it is certainly a serious environmental concern that requires careful consideration to utilize natural habitats for the development of resources like oil and gas, an even greater concern is the continued dependency of the US on foreign oil and gas. It is projected that the US will need to import 62% more crude oil by 2022 because of declines in domestic production, and that includes a dependency on countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. US relations with Russia are the worst in over 35 years, and reliance on Saudi Arabia has continued to require the US to ethically compromise and basically ignore their numerous human rights violations

These leases have also laid the foundation to develop natural resources, provide jobs, and build the economy in Alaska, while the Biden administration has offered no adequate reason why it is necessary to suspend these leases that are legally binding and valid to complete a second environmental review other than to appease special interest groups. No one who truly cares for the environment wants to see it destroyed unnecessarily. Yet, the responsible development of natural resources like oil and gas is still an urgent necessity that the US must continue to pursue to protect our national sovereignty, independence, and security.

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