War over Willow: Alaskans lobby for an oil project as eco-warriors swarm White House to stop it

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The Alaska Legislature’s Bush Caucus was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, appearing at a press conference with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Mary Peltola.

They were beseeching the Biden Administration for a favorable decision for the Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. It’s a pending decision that no one seems to be able to predict which way the White House will go.

Rep. Josiah Patkotak of Utqiagvik, Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, Rep. C.J. McCormick of Bethel, Senators Donny Olson of Golovin and Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, and AFL-CIO Alaska President Joelle Hall of Anchorage were at the rally, wearing big, red “Willow yes” pins.

Also this week, environmental groups burned the midnight oil on flights to Washington from across the country to work their connections in the Biden Administration, determined to deny Alaskans this critical energy infrastructure project that will put a bandage on our currently wounded national energy security. Environmentalists in Washington this week are like a swarm of cicadas.

The opponents of the Willow Project, which include Gwich’in leaders and the Nuiqsut City and Tribe, call the oil project a “carbon bomb.” They will hold a protest on Friday in front of the White House, to make their objections to oil clear to the national media, which had all-but-ignored the Wednesday press conference.

The environmental lobby may have the last word with the Biden Administration before a decision is released next week. They are leaving nothing to chance. Over 250,000 letters have been written in opposition to Willow, and companies like Patagonia, which makes its products out of oil, have lined up to lobby against the drilling permit.

Patagonia encourages its customers to lobby against Alaska’s Willow Project.

Inside the Administration, a heated war is raging, and it has everything to do with the 2024 presidential election, and the massive environmental political groups that can give or withhold money for campaigns.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wants the project killed; some insiders say the White House is taking over the decision on what has clearly become a Biden Administration hot potato.

Wheeling and dealing is in full swing between the Alaska delegation and the Biden Administration, and the environmentalists and the Biden Administration.

What will the president’s campaign want or need in exchange for giving the OK to the Willow Project? What will he need in return for denying the permits? Does the White House care about saving the 2024 reelection bid of Rep. Mary Peltola?

For her part, what vote will Sen. Lisa Murkowski trade to Biden in exchange for a thumbs up on the drilling permit? Will she vote in favor of Biden’s anti-free-speech FCC nominee Gigi Sohn? Will she agree to “no more oil permits for the Arctic”?

The environmental lobby is the most powerful, well-heeled force in Washington, D.C. during this administration. They brought Biden to the dance in 2020, and can pick a different partner in 2024. All they must do is threaten to work their ways inside the Democratic Party to advance a challenger.

Biden has problematic promises to keep. He promised in 2020 that he would end oil drilling in America altogether. His first act in 2021 was to signed an order that halted all new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and waters. He ordered a review of existing permits for oil and gas on federal lands. He brought American energy independence to its knees with the stroke of a pen.

There is the Podesta factor, too. John Podesta, who is Biden’s climate advisor, served as a chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, as a counselor to President Barack Obama, and as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016.

Podesta took credit for driving Royal Dutch Shell Oil out of Alaska. After the company had invested more than $7 billion into shallow-water, off-shore oil leases in the Chukchi Sea, the Obama Administration limited the project to just two exploration wells. Shell came up with a dry hole on the first well and decided to pick up its jackup rig and go home, and absorb the loss. Environmentalists called it a major victory, for the Obama Administration had simply made it uneconomic to do business in Alaska.

Podesta was jubilant when Shell left Alaska. In emails obtained by Wikileaks, he took credit for it, and posted on Twitter that it was “great news for the climate.”

The Podesta Playbook might be pulled out now: The administration could reduce the number of drill pads for Willow down to two, and announce that it had been responsive to both Alaska and to the environment. Two wells would make Willow a project that does not pencil out economically for ConocoPhillips, which has had the leases since 1999, and has worked for a permit for five years.

With the Podesta Playbook, Biden could give a win to the environmental lobby and ensure they stay with him for 2024. It worked to drive Shell out of Alaska, and it may work to drive ConocoPhillips out, too.

But it’s a tightrope for Biden, who has just approved importing 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, a country that the State Department says is “a permissive environment for known terrorist groups.”

Biden has also drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 371 million barrels, the lowest in its history, and has no current plan to restore it as a backup energy reserve.

The Washington Post reports that the Alaska delegation has a meeting with Biden to make one last attempt to save the Alaska economy from the “no more Arctic oil” lobby.

“White House officials suggested to environmental groups in recent days that they may pair approval for a controversial Arctic oil project with new conservation measures in Alaska, but have failed to convince activists the idea is an acceptable compromise, according to three people involved in or briefed on the calls,” the newspaper reported.

21 COMMENTS

  1. We are allowed under the Statehood Act to develop our natural resources. Let’s go Brandon, and his minions!!

    • State laws do not trump federal laws.
      Since statehood, the fed has basically neutered us.

  2. This fight isn’t about the climate. It’s about power and taking it away from the United States. Most scientists know this, but most have been afraid to point this out and be “canceled”, meaning de-funded. Our media celebrities aren’t the only folk being “canceled” for speaking out the truth.

    Everyone should read this recent paper from three well known and reputable scientists and realize where we are headed:

    ‘https://co2coalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/2023-02-23-Challenging-Net-Zero-with-Science.pdf

  3. The real war is on America. Importing filthy high sulfur oil from Venezuela shows that. There is no such thing as a fossil fuel. I have seen thousands of fossils, but none would serve as a fuel. When Margaret Thacher was trying to break up a coal miners strike in England, she hired a PR firm to sway public opinion. They invented the term “fossil fuel.” Oil occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust, more is constantly being formed. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for life. If we could double the CO2 in the atmosphere, it would benefit all life on Earth.

  4. When a group of Senators get together to write a letter to financial institutions to prevent your state from the legal, responsible development of your resources, it should be obvious it is time to break with the federal tit and get to taking care of ourselves and our economy.

  5. Hey Josiah wow look at you now!!!? The world has gone crazy!!!! Your leading????? Oh god what’s happening!!!!!?

  6. It’s state policies that the Governor and the Legislature could end today that allow Nuiqsut to live in a bubble so far as what supports them. State oil and gas property taxes go directly to the North Slope Borough; about $400 million a year. There are no property taxes in Nuiqsut, and everyone gets free education, free natural gas for heating, free electricity, free health care, and municipal employment if anyone wants it. Regional and village corporation dividends are largely tax free. Nuiqsut residents can oppose oil development because there is no evident relationship between everything coming for free and continuation of the Alaska petroleum era. If your legislator is new this year he/she might not even yet know that state petroleum property taxes go to the North Slope Borough. During the interim the North Slope Borough and/or ASRC employs legislators.

  7. These individuals, Tribes and Cities should receive no dollars derived from drilling. There should be a question when applying for the PFD and under the grounds of perjury do you support responsible drilling for oil? If you answer no, then you should not receive a PFD and if you answer yes and it is proven otherwise that you lied than you should face jail time.

  8. The North Slope borough has got rich off oil, companies and now one of their villages that gets natural gas from the oil companies wants to shut it down. I agree and then shut off to natural gas and any kind of petroleum products that the North Slope borough uses. They are talking out of two sides of their mouth either you want oil or you don’t if you don’t, you need to quit using it prove it.

  9. If Biden and the government want to restrict her 401(k)s against petroleum-based companies and profits, then we should restrict petroleum and products from them any company or government official that anti-oil shouldn’t get any of it. Time is come to draw a line in the sand and those are climate fools need to step up and quit using oil.

  10. State of Alaska should hire some lawyers to file suits against any kind of development that uses oil or any petroleum product. We need to stop any kind of development in any state that has anything to do with oil lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit we need to fight fire with fire. They don’t want us to do what we want in our state and they should be allowed to do what they want. Their state shut available no new buildings no highways no new infrastructure. It all takes petroleum and they don’t want it. Shut it down.

  11. Sad to see so many blind and misguided groups willing to allow the Nation to be ruined just to display their power…the extent of the destruction of our nation by the Obama/Biden cabal has been massive. Obama wanted to see the nation on its knee’s and we are certainly there already and soon may be flat on our back…

  12. When will the Democrat voters in rural Alaska realize that their well being is not a focus of the national Democrat party?

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