Friday, September 22, 2023
HomeColumnsRick Whitbeck: Biden betrays Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Rick Whitbeck: Biden betrays Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


When Congress in 2017 approved exploration and development opportunities in Alaska’s Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it marked an end to a 37-year struggle to open the plain. Originally authorized by Congress in 1980, the plain holds a tremendous reserve that could enhance U.S. energy security for decades.

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President Joe Biden killed those opportunities with a stroke of his pen.

Invoking climate change, the president canceled already-executed lease contracts with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for its seven tracts of land on the Coastal Plain.

In doing so, Biden showed that his talk about well-paying jobs, national energy security, environmental and social justice, and addressing the “climate crisis” is completely without action. Environmentalist zealots, not rational Americans, are the most important people in the country to his administration.

Full development in the Coastal Plain could bring over 60,000 jobs to Alaska, as well as up to $50 billion in royalty payments to various government agencies. With the area estimated to hold between 5 billion and 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil, as well as untold billions of cubic feet of natural gas, it could fill for decades gaps between domestic supply and ever-growing demand.

Development of the wildlife refuge is strongly supported by Alaskans, including the Inupiat Eskimos living closest to — and even, in the case of the village of Kaktovik, inside the boundaries of — the Coastal Plain.

Oil and gas not only creates hundreds of jobs for villagers across the North Slope of the state, but royalty payments to local government have facilitated First World living conditions, a stark contrast to regions of Alaska without significant job opportunities.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska Republican, has tracked ongoing attacks on industry and opportunity, noting that this was the 55th executive order targeting the state’s resource projects.

Many of those projects, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, directly affect predominantly Native villages and residents who support the chance to work, live and play in their traditional and ancestral areas, rather than face outmigration to larger cities and towns.

Simply put, if the Biden Administration were truly concerned about giving Indigenous people a hand up, it would promote Alaska’s resource opportunities, not destroy them.

But Biden’s handlers and advisers want him to be reelected in November 2024. They know that recent decisions to allow oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and to reauthorize development of Alaska’s Willow Project have damaged his credibility among environmental activists, a segment of the voting populace he can’t afford to lose.

It isn’t just failed energy policies that are hurting the president’s reelection prospects. Only 74% of Democrats support Biden’s candidacy, according to a recent poll. For a sitting president, that number is shocking, but even more so is the overall support, which hovers just below 40%. Polls show that he’s even losing to five of six leading Republican candidates in head-to-head matchups.

The numbers for Biden only get worse the deeper you dive, with polls showing that 58% of voters believe the economy has gotten worse over the past two years, whereas only 28% say it has gotten better, and nearly 3 in 4 say inflation is headed in the wrong direction.

Unless Biden can shift those numbers dramatically, he will be a one-term president.

In the face of this reality, it seems the Biden Administration’s plan is to double down on terrible decisions, hoping it will energize the president’s green supporters. Time will tell if their plan is right politically, but the facts are clear: Reelection is more important than Alaska and its working families right now.

And, if Biden is elected for another four years without the prospect of facing voters again, just imagine what he will do. The thought should make rational Americans shudder.

• Rick Whitbeck is Alaska state director for Power the Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates American energy jobs. Email him at [email protected], and follow him on X @PTFAlaska.



  1. Maybe it’s all been the plan all along Democrats and their Accomplice Republicans get the Natives to leave their birthplaces for Urban communities or move out Alaska like they did to Native Hawaiians, For Land. Recently I learned there very few Native blooded Hawaiians left in Hawaii. I grew up listening to how Native villages are declining as its young families and more villagers moving out for either a healthier life or jobs.

  2. The oil company’s need to go on strike for about 2 weeks. That would answer the question about what the people want not what the world elites want.

    • I don’t think they’ll do it over ANWR. Rick fails to mention how incredibly unsuccessful the lease sale was–three wild catters and AIDEA, who picked up about 70% of the leases. The majors know there is no viable project in ANWR–it’s simply too far from existing infrastructure, among other issues. The cost of constructing new gravel roads on the North Slope is ridiculous and the cost of base infrastructure needed just to reach the boundary would be more than the Willow project, and that’s before they’ve built any facilities for actual development in the refuge. As to the jobs that Native Alaskans would want so bad, they are currently available and very few are employed in the inudstry, so it seems more like jobs for Anchorage, Kenai, Mat-Su, and Texas residents.

      • There’s no viable project because the administrative state does not allow it. If the administrative state allowed viable projects there would have been bids by those willing and able to bring them to fruition.

  3. These jobs are especially important to the residents in all of the surrounding villages.
    They are nearly all onboard with the responsible development they have already been a part of and helped their quality of life immensely.
    Currently since there are no other work force development projects to speak of so the only option for employment is working for local government jobs which pays six figure incomes for upper level management for those lucky enough to land those valuable jobs. Other than that there is little opportunity other than service jobs for the airlines or freight companies or building maintenance positions which doesnt pay enough to cover the high cost just to live there.
    There is a large separation between the haves and the have nots simply because there are not near enough lucrative government jobs to go around and a large number of residents would much rather work in the oil field industry seasonal which coincides with their subsistence hunting lifestyle.
    They are simply being cut off at the knees by the Biden regime catering to the psychotic enviromental bunch who dont have a clue what the entire northern half of Alaska even looks like.

  4. Never Forget/Never Forget … Daddy’s Little Princess is complicit in Biden’s traitorous actions too!
    She’s gotta-go! The Alaska GOP needs to get tuff and mean, focused on putting winners in place.

  5. The Alaska Statehood Act;
    The State of Alaska and its people forever disclaim all right and title in or to any property belonging to the United States or subject to its disposition, and not granted or confirmed to the State or its political subdivisions, by or under the act admitting Alaska to the Union.

        • I see the christians are out in full force today,.
          I would have more to write but have to go to work, by the way do you have a job or just complain all day?

      • Steve;
        Title of story was ANWR and betrayal, My comment was why presidential executive order’s are legal according to the statehood Act 😉 .

        By the way what does your below captioned comment have to do with ANWR?

        • Yet another leftist with reading comprehension issues, the title of this column isn’t “ANWR and betrayal” it’s “Biden betrays Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”.

          Presidential Executive Orders have absolutely nothing to do with the Alaska Statehood Act, the Alaska Statehood Act does not grant Executive Privilege.

          The comment I posted below has to do with what is written in this column, perhaps you should read the column before commenting on it.

          Since you’ve failed to answer the question I asked you, I will ask again. What’s that have to do with the President using an Executive Order to overwrite a number of different Acts of Congress?

  6. There are a few reasons Biden is polling at 74% amongst Democrats:
    1. Kamala is the second option.
    2. Democrats like the destructive nature of this administration.
    3. Polls are wrong.


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