President Biden is all about saying the right things to appease the greenies, but then doing all the things to appease the oilmen. He’s about to approve project Willow, which will give ConocoPhillips the right to use oil leases on Alaska’s North Slope, producing up to 180,000 barrels a day. At the same time, he’s declaring 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve off-limits, essentially forever—or at least until a different president reverses his order.
ConocoPhillips is happy, but the greenies are not. The New York Times quoted one:
“It’s insulting that Biden thinks this will change our minds about the Willow project,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. “Protecting one area of the Arctic so you can destroy another doesn’t make sense, and it won’t help the people and wildlife who will be upended by the Willow project.”
When the whole thing goes to court (and it will), don’t be surprised to see the EPA siding with the greenies, against ConocoPhillips, which of course has a massive cash incentive to fight for its leases. Then Biden will be able to claim “he did all he could” while the oilmen haul in the cash.
This stirs up one of my pet peeves. Congress should be setting policy on North Slope oil, offshore drilling, and land use. It’s Congress’s job to do it, but they’ve long outsourced that authority to the Interior Department and BLM (not to mention the red-headed, mistreated stepchild Bureau of Indian Affairs). The president may merely use a pen and a phone to change policy regarding 28% of the real estate in America, worth somewhere north of $2 trillion, without adding in mineral rights. Congress designates land for national parks and other purposes, but the executive branch has way too much authority over land use, especially oil land.
The issue here is that decisions regarding drilling and production of oil generally span several presidential terms. Therefore the oil companies look long, while individual presidential administrations play short. ConocoPhillips will likely get its way, if not now, then in 2024. Biden will suffer one day’s news cycle of withering insults of greenies, while later playing up his bans on further oil leases in his campaign (if he runs). The whole thing is a massive waste of effort and an insult to voters that does nothing but make prices at the pump go up and put more cash into the oilmens’ (and their lawyers) pockets.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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