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March 14, 2023

Is Biden Really Drilling the Greens?

The administration’s approval of a huge new energy project has angered the environmentalists.

The Biden administration has authorized a major oil drilling project in northern Alaska, and environmental groups aren’t happy about it. They say the president isn’t living up to his campaign promises and his climate commitments.

It’s unlikely, though, that Biden has simply decided to stick it to his party’s “green” wing. Instead, he may sense a bipartisan win with an election year looming, especially given his abysmal record on energy.

In approving the Willow Project, Biden breaks a core climate pledge to not approve any new oil or natural gas drilling on federal land. “But,” as The Washington Times reports, “breaking that promise gives him new ammunition in a 2024 reelection run to fend off accusations that he is anti-oil and responsible for high gasoline and energy prices.”

As the Washington Examiner notes: “The Interior Department approved a scaled-down version of ConocoPhillips’s Willow Project in northern Alaska, allowing the Houston-based company to develop three out of five drilling well pads it had initially proposed. Interior also ‘indefinitely’ banned oil and gas leasing on more than 2 million acres nearby in a nod to conservationists.”

The Associated Press adds: “The project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the company — about 1.5% of total U.S. oil production. Willow is currently the largest proposed oil project on U.S. public land.”

Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan said the development could be “one of the biggest, most important resource development projects in our state’s history.” His Republican colleague, Senator Lisa Murkowski, concurred: “We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it. I thank the administration for listening to Alaskans, rejecting false claims meant to sink this project and having the courage to make the right decision on Willow.”

Not everyone was as pleased as Sullivan and Murkowski. A petition in opposition to the project has so far gotten nearly 3,400,000 signatures.

In Congress, a group of “green” Democrats issued a joint statement noting that the Biden administration’s decision “ignores the voices of the people of Nuiqsut, our frontline communities, and the irrefutable science that says we must stop building projects like this to slow the ever more devastating impacts of climate change. … The only acceptable Willow project is no Willow project.”

Margie Alt, director of the Climate Action Campaign, offered more environmental bromides: “Today’s decision to approve the Willow Project in Alaska will lock in decades of dirty and dangerous oil and gas production and drown out the tremendous environmental and economic opportunities available from transitioning to a clean economy.”

The federal oil reserve that will host the project is roughly the size of Indiana, and supporters say it’ll provide “an economic lifeline for Indigenous communities in the region.” For that reason, the project has bipartisan support within the state, including within the indigenous Nuiqsut community mentioned by the Democrats.

“Today, the people of Alaska were heard,” said Democrat Congresswoman Mary Peltola, who’s also one of those indigenous Alaskans. “After years of consistent, determined advocacy for this project, from people all across the state and from every walk of life, the Willow Project is finally moving forward.”

Angry Democrats will no doubt challenge the project in court, and they might even challenge Biden from the environmental Left, but we suspect he already weighed all this before making his decision.

The project is obviously good news for those who value cheap and abundant energy, but Republicans are wrong if they think Biden has turned over a new pro-energy leaf. “The Biden Administration remains hostile to nearly all domestic fossil-fuel production,” write the editors of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, “and political realism says Willow is the exception that proves that rule. The White House knows a primary challenge from the left is unlikely, and its bigger concern is the opening for a GOP challenger if there is a surge in oil prices after Mr. Biden has sat on all drilling in the U.S.”

Regardless, the Willow Project is win for the American people.

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