Biden Cancels ANWR Leases In Ongoing War On Oil And Gas

The Biden administration’s decision to cancel Trump-era oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has drawn anger from Wyoming officials, who say the ongoing regulatory uncertainty is killing the industry.

September 07, 20235 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Biden administration has announced it will cancel the remaining oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Days before President Joe Biden took office in 2021, the Trump administration sold the seven oil and gas leases. 

As with Wyoming, large portions of Alaska are owned by the federal government, which means Alaska oil and gas producers, like Wyoming producers, are often beholden to the whims of whatever administration is in the White House. 

Ryan McConnaughey, spokesperson for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily that producers that operate on public lands, as many in Wyoming do, deal with this level of constant regulatory uncertainty. It makes it difficult for a capital-intensive industry like oil and gas production to make the long-term planning needed for investment. 

“Oil and gas development is not something that you can just turn on and off like a light switch,” McConnaughey said. 

Third World

The leases had the potential to produce 10 billion barrels of oil, and the exploration operations would have taken place on about 2,000 acres of the 19 million acre refuge. That would be the equivalent size of a 13-acre ranch operating in Laramie County. 

Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily that the tiny footprint of the operations there means that they wouldn’t have been any threat to the Alaska wildlife. 

Besides being unnecessary, the Biden administration’s decision comes at a time when gas prices are at their highest level of 2023, she said.

“Nobody should be surprised that the most anti-energy president in our history has once again taken steps to kill American energy independence and ensure that people will continue to pay more at the pump, more to heat their homes, more for the goods they purchase,” Hageman said. 

Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, told Cowboy State Daily that these leases were mandated by Congress in 2017, and their arbitrary cancellation breaks legal contracts between the federal government and industry. 

“Dealing with the Biden administration has become a lot like dealing with a third-world African country,” Stewart said. “Although at this point, most third-world dictatorships offer a greater degree of certainty that they will fulfill their contractual obligations than this Administration does.”

He added that Congress should take action to overturn the administration’s decision. 

Mind Boggling 

Rick Whitbeck, Alaska State director for Power The Future, an energy industry advocacy group that works throughout the U.S. and the West, told Cowboy State that the cancellation was “mind boggling” and would have far-reaching consequences for the entire country. 

“Canceling fully executed leases and putting congressionally authorized development areas off-limits only weakens America’s domestic energy situation,” Whitbeck said. 

Whitbeck said the administration’s insistence on attacking the nation’s supply of petroleum fails to grasp that it will do nothing to undermine the demand. Consumers will end up suffering from this short-sighted policy, and the country will just import the energy it needs from nations where the industry operates with fewer environmental regulations. 

“You have to wonder who is pulling Joe Biden’s strings: OPEC? Russia? China?” Whitbeck said. 

He said, if the Alaska field were to be developed, it would produce enough oil and gas to turn America into a net exporter again. 

Rewarding Adversaries

As much as it’s reported that we’re transitioning away from oil and gas, the data doesn’t show any transitioning happening. While wind and solar resources have increased rapidly, oil and gas remain the primary source of energy for most of the world. 

The planet is not only using more total fossil fuels than ever, they supply 82% of the world’s energy sources, a factor that hasn’t changed in decades. Fossil fuels are also expected to be the primary energy source well into the future. 

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, said in a statement that the cancellation is part of the president’s war on American energy. 

“With the stroke of a pen, his administration is placing more than 40% of the National Petroleum Reserve off limits for petroleum production,” Barrasso said. 

By doing so, he said, Biden is ignoring the law and making us more dependent on foreign oil.

“Not only is this bad energy policy, it’s bad foreign policy. Today’s decision rewards our adversaries and hurts American families,” Barrasso said. 

Net-Zero Fantasy

Hageman noted that the Biden administration drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down gas prices, while simultaneously putting existing and future sources of production out of business. 

Meanwhile, the administration is hoping an aggressive build out of wind and solar farms will be enough to meet energy demand. 

“Renewable energy — or as we should call it, unreliable energy —- will never replace the need for coal, oil, and natural gas. The ‘net-zero’ fantasy of the Biden administration continues to be proven impossible with each new study authored,” Hageman said. 

Hageman said, even given decades to achieve this goal, it’s not likely to succeed in our lifetimes. 

“What will happen is American energy poverty will increase and our reliance on despots and dictators for reliable energy sources will make us less safe at home,” Hageman said.

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