On Sep. 6, the Biden administration announced they would cancel all drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska that were approved during the Trump administration.
While the decision also prohibits drilling in 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve, it does not, however, “stop the enormous $8 billion Willow oil drilling project in the same vicinity, which President Biden approved this year,” said Lisa Friedman of the New York Times.
The biggest issue the opposers of the drilling in Alaska have is the effect oil and gas drilling has on climate change and the environment surrounding the drilling sites.
According to a 2022 study, the “Arctic is heating up nearly four times faster than the Earth as a whole,” said Rebecca Hersher of NPR. When considering this information, it is easier to understand why it is so important to preserve the Arctic lands.
However, after approving the Willow project, the Biden administration is sending mixed signals on what their priorities are regarding these lands.
“Allowing drilling in a wildlife refuge in the first place was a disastrous policy and ending these leases should be seen as [common sense],” said Thomas Burns (’24).
For those who are worried about the environmental impacts of the oil and gas drilling in the area, like Burns, the canceling of these leases is “a step in the right direction.” However, for others, there may be more to consider than the effects on the environment.
For some Alaska Native groups, for example, they “depend on drilling for jobs and revenue to support schools and other public services,” said Friedman. Furthermore, some Republicans “are accusing Mr. Biden of harming the country’s energy independence.”
It is issues like these that make these decisions not so cut-and-dry. However, it seems that Biden made this most recent decision to cancel oil and gas leases with the younger generation of voters in mind.
After the decision to approve the Willow project, many “climate activists, particularly young environmentalists… called the move a betrayal of Mr. Biden’s campaign promise of ‘no new drilling, period’ on federal lands and waters,” said Friedman.
“Since then, the administration has taken pains to emphasize its efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that result from burning oil and gas and that are driving climate change.”
And while some “young people [remain] angry about the Willow decision and [think] that the new Arctic protections did not make up for it… [this is] ‘exactly the sort of thing young people and people in climate movement want to see from the president,’” said Freidman.
While this move to potentially cut down the U.S.’s emissions and preserve the Arctic’s wildlife is favorable for some, others believe we still have a long way to go if we are to take climate change seriously.
“In the grand scheme of things, America needs a level of investment in green energy that it has never seen before in order to begin mitigating the effects of climate change that things like the Willow Project will continue to perpetuate,” said Burns.
Whatever one’s stance on this issue may be, it is important, now more than ever, to make sure one’s voice is heard. With the presidential election occurring just over a year from now and with primary elections happening even sooner, it is easy to perform one’s civic duty and vote to make sure one’s voice is known.