The Alaska Legislature’s rural senators and representatives were in Washington, D.C. last week, appearing at a Capitol press conference with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Mary Peltola.
It was a press conference ignored by the media, even though it featured Alaska Native leaders from across the state, and a unanimous resolution from the Alaska Legislature in favor of the Willow Project permit for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
By Friday, environmental groups had arrived from across the country to work their inside connections with the Biden Administration, hoping to deny Alaskans this critical energy infrastructure project that could put a bandage on our weakened national energy security. The Biden Administration is expected to make a decision on the drilling permit this week.
The opponents of the Willow Project call it a “carbon bomb.” In fact, at its height, the project would only bring about 188,000 barrels of oil per day to market, a fraction of the nation’s need. Compare that to the 1.4 million barrels a day of oil produced in New Mexico.
The environmental lobby may have the last word with the Biden Administration before a decision on Willow is released, which is expected this week. They are leaving nothing to chance. Over 250,000 letters have been written in opposition to Willow. Patagonia, which makes products out of refined hypocrisy, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the anti-business marketing campaign.
Inside the Administration, the war over Willow is raging against the backdrop of the 2024 election and the environmental political groups that can give or withhold money for campaigns. These groups have persuaded millions of Americans to sign petitions against the approval of the permit.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland opposes Willow, and some insiders say the White House is taking over the decision on what has clearly become a Biden Administration hot potato.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Mary Peltola, were given a brief audience with the president on Friday, and Sullivan presented a map to Biden that shows all of the actions the Biden Administration has taken to shut down Alaska in his two years in office. Biden has signed 46 official actions to stop any resource development in Alaska.
“Where’s the racial justice and racial equity for the Indigenous people of Alaska? They’re the biggest proponents of this project,” Sullivan said after the meeting. “If they go with Greenpeace and Center for Biological Diversity and Lower 48 radicals and tell the Native people of my state, ‘sorry, we’re going to listen to lower 48 radicals, not you,’ all of their talk of racial justice and racial equity is, quite frankly, bulls—.”
Decisions like this are currency in the nation’s capital, and something must be given to get the decision – either way it goes.
The president’s camp will ask Alaska for something in exchange for giving the OK to ConocoPhillips to proceed.
What vote would Murkowski trade to Biden in exchange for a thumbs up? Will she say “aye” to the confirmation of Biden’s anti-free-speech FCC nominee Gigi Sohn? Will she agree to no more permits for the Arctic? (RELATED: MANDY GUNASEKARA: Conservatives Should Speak Up On The Environment)
There is the Podesta factor, too.
John Podesta, 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 Shell out of Alaska, when, 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. The Obama Administration had simply made it uneconomic to do business in Alaska. Environmentalists declared it a major victory.
Podesta was jubilant when Shell quit Alaska. In emails obtained by WikiLeaks, he took credit for it, and posted on Twitter that it was “great news for the climate.”
The same playbook might be pulled out now: The Administration could reduce the number of drill pads for Willow to two, from the four originally presented for permit. Biden could announce that he had been responsive to both Alaska and the environment.
Two wells would make Willow a project that probably won’t pencil out economically for ConocoPhillips.
The Podesta Playbook worked to drive Shell out of Alaska, and it may work to drive ConocoPhillips out, too.
Suzanne Downing is the publisher of Must Read Alaska.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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