AFTER CEDING AFGHANISTAN TO CHINA, WILL JOE CEDE ALASKA’S ENERGY RICHES TO RUSSIA?
By DUGGAN FLANAKIN
Joe Biden’s war on fossil fuels has taken perhaps its heaviest toll on the 49th State. Oil and gas account for roughly half of Alaska’s economy and a quarter of its jobs. There would be lots more oil and gas jobs in Alaska but for Biden, who unilaterally suspended all oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that President Trump had earlier approved. Now that action is being challenged in court.
The ANWR suspensions came on the heels of the weak defense of ConocoPhillips’ Willow Master Development Plan. In October, the Biden Justice Department opted not to continue its defense of the project after the Alaska federal district court ruled against what would have been the largest oil and gas drilling project in the Alaskan Arctic.
Adding insult to injury, just as he did by vacating sanctions that had blocked construction by Russia of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, President Joe opted to abandon the Arctic and the people of Alaska. In turn, he opened an even wider door for Russia to overtake the U.S. as an oil and gas producer. Lest anyone forget, the Nord Stream deal was announced weeks after Biden killed the Keystone Pipeline, also by Executive Order.
Thanks to Biden policies, Russia has become America’s No. 2 foreign oil supplier. Russia has more than doubled its oil sales to the U.S. since Biden took office; Russian oil now doubles Alaskan oil’s contribution to U.S. consumption. While Alaska’s oil and gas production has fallen by 75 percent since 1988, seriously impacting state revenues, Biden has enabled Putin’s Russia to gain U.S. market share equal to Alaska’s entire current output.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) has sued President Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and others in the Biden Administration, stating that their actions to obstruct and delay the development of valid oil and gas leases in the non-wilderness Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are unlawful.
In the 32-page filing, before the U.S. District Court for Alaska, the plaintiff explained that AIDEA had won the right to bid on leases to pursue drilling in ANWR when a federal judge denied any injunctive efforts to stop the oil and gas sale.
Biden disregarded this order on his first day of office by placing a “temporary” moratorium on ANWR development. He followed up in June by halting exploration and development on those leases, claiming that legal deficiencies in the oil and gas leasing program necessitated a new environmental review. In August, Haaland announced that Interior would still need more than a year to complete its “review.” Any bets on the outcome?
AIDEA argued that these actions violated the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that opened the door for the January 2021 lease sale. AIDEA had won seven 10-year leases in that sale to pursue development on tracts totaling about 370,000 acres in the 19-million-acre refuge.
AIDEA contends that “defendants have defied a direct congressional mandate[emphasis added] to facilitate development of oil and gas resources on the coastal plain of Alaska. Rather than follow the law and the science, defendants have engaged in a politically driven, systematic campaign to prevent any Coastal Plain development.”
AIDEA is seeking a declaratory judgment holding that the Biden ANWR moratorium violates the Administrative Procedures Act. The plea also asks for declaratory judgments that the Biden moratorium and Interior’s actions violate the 2017 Tax Act and constitute unlawful withholding and unreasonable delay of agency action – and are also arbitrary and capricious.
AIDEA also seeks permanent injunctions against the federal defendants and an order compelling the government to proceed with leasing and development. They are going for the grand slam homer while down by three in the bottom of the ninth. America needs Alaska’s oil and gas. But Biden would rather buy it from Russia. And OPEC (whom he is begging!). And Venezuela. [Alas, China has none to spare.]
Biden’s war on Alaska would be bad enough, but Russia is also engaged in polar geopolitics and has been investing heavily in the Arctic. According to Heritage Foundation scholars, Russia is spending nearly a billion dollars by 2026 to complete building a fiber optic cable (the Polar Express) spanning nearly 8,000 miles from the northern village of Teriberka to Vladivostok.
The state-funded project was authorized under Russia’s 2018 Northern Sea Route Development Plan, which calls for significant increases in Arctic development by 2035. Putin’s Russia is also expanding Arctic oil and gas drilling, including a new project in the Laptev Sea. Russia has even stepped up its Arctic military presence, with new patrol vessels and new marine bases.
The once-dubbed “evil empire” also aims to test its Poseidon nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo in the Arctic from newly refitted nuclear submarines. And Russia has over 40 ice-breaking ships, compared to America’s two, one of which is over 30 years old; neither can travel in U.S. waters above the Arctic Circle.
Biden has, you may have noticed, brought expanded oil and gas and coal operations to countries around the world while depriving Americans of hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and leaving millions unwilling to work at all. The latest polls show him 2 points behind the much-maligned and twice-impeached Donald Trump.
Biden’s anti-development policies play well with well-heeled environmental groups who oppose any use of fossil fuels in the West and by Africans (but not by Russians, Chinese, Indians, Iranians, or OPEC members). He has plowed on despite falling polls and rising prices for gasoline, home heating, groceries, and just about everything else.
He knows he is not running again and has nothing to lose. He is effectively President for Life (at least his political life) only if he continues to please the far left. Expect no course corrections.
Duggan Flanakin is Director of Policy Research for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The column first appeared in Real Clear Energy.