Donald Trump sustained an epic defeat last week when a widely-criticized, eleventh-hour bid to sell oil and gas exploration leases in the ecologically fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) produced only a fraction of the revenue or industry interest his administration was hoping for.
Trump officials were aiming to raise US$900 million, with half of the funds going to the state of Alaska and the other half helping to cover the cost of Republicans’ profligate upper-income tax cuts, The Guardian reports. A Congressional mandate calls for ANWR lease sales to generate $1.8 billion over 10 years, Climate Nexus adds.
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But in the end, the auction produced only $14 million, bidders only showed interest in 11 of the 22 tracts, and the state itself bought nine of the 11 leases, in the unlikely hope of eventually subletting the land to actual developers at some point in the future. Neither of the other two bidders was a major oil producer, the New York Times writes.
The “collective ‘meh’” from the industry meant a state-owned corporation could buy up its nine tracts at the legal minimum price of just $25 per acre, Climate Nexus says. That’s partly because, “under mounting pressure from climate advocates, the six biggest American banks and five biggest Canadian banks have all pledged not to finance drilling in the refuge. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to prevent oil drilling in the refuge.”
“This lease sale was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation,” said Alaska Wilderness League Executive Director Adam Kolton. “After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves, with the state being one of the only bidders.”
The tepid response “back[s] up the arguments from environmental advocates and watchdog groups that leasing the public land is a bad deal for the country, particularly when oil is in such low demand and public scrutiny grows of the industry’s role in the climate crisis and damage to sensitive habitats,” The Guardian adds. “Drilling for new oil now, when the planet is already experiencing dangerous heating, would be irresponsible, they said.”
While all eyes last week were on a Capitol Hill mob incited by the seditious current occupant of the White House, the Canadian government and northern First Nations still voiced concerns about the lease sale, The Canadian Press reports.
“Canada continues to strongly oppose development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge due to the potential impacts on the Porcupine caribou herd and on Indigenous Peoples,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
“Canada’s concerns have not received a response that addresses the high level of risk to our shared species,” he added, even though the herd is protected by international treaty. “Prior to any leases being legally awarded, Canada has requested that additional consultations take place to assess and consider potential long-term effects on Porcupine caribou.”
“In their push to sell off our lands to the fossil fuel industry, the Trump administration has engaged in a corrupt process and disrespected and dismissed the Indigenous people,” said Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff.