Alaskan wilderness opens up for oil exploration
January 6, 2021 - In one of the final acts of his administration, Donald Trump has opened bidding on drilling leases in a pristine Arctic wildlife refuge in Alaska, rushing to lock up deals before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
The auction caps a 40-year battle over whether to drill in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which may conceal billions of barrels of oil.
The move is among a slew of last-minute efforts by President Trump’s government to expand fossil fuel and mineral development in the U.S. before leaving office, building on his years-long drive to maximize domestic production over the objections of environmentalists.
Environmental advocates call the refuge’s “biological heart” a breeding ground for caribou and polar bears, as well as important habitat for more than 200 other species, including snow geese and many other migratory birds.
President-elect Biden has said he opposes drilling in Alaska’s Arctic refuge and with climate change set to be a central focus for his administration, it is likely that efforts to extract new fossil fuels in Alaska will be subject to review and delay.
Created in 1960 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and expanded in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, ANWR is the largest intact wilderness ecosystem in the United States.
Several large U.S. banks have said they will not fund oil and gas exploration in the area.