Critics have argued that allowing the drilling venture would mar President Biden’s record on climate change
The administration of Joe Biden has dismissed multiple media reports claiming that the US president has decided to greenlight a massive Alaskan oil development that climate activist Al Gore has decried as “recklessly irresponsible.”
“No final decisions have been made,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday, adding that “anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong.” She made her comments after the New York Times, Bloomberg, and CNN reported that Biden’s administration will announce approval of the Willow oil project in the Alaskan Arctic next week.
The $8 billion development, announced by ConocoPhillips in January 2017, would produce an estimated 180,000 barrels a day of oil at its peak, boosting US energy supplies and extending the viability of an 800-mile pipeline that transports crude from Alaska’s North Slope. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline can carry no less than about 300,000 barrels a day during winter months. North Slope output slid to as low as 403,000 barrels a day last year, down from its 1980s peak of nearly 2 million barrels a day, according to government data.
Willow also might help ensure the economic wellbeing of Alaska, which relies on oil for around 36% of its GDP and 85% of state revenue. However, Biden will likely face heavy backlash within his own party if he approves the project because it’s located in Alaska’s pristine National Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s largest stretch of undisturbed public land.
“We don’t need to prop up the fossil fuel industry with new, multi-year projects that are a recipe for climate chaos,” Gore told the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Friday. “Instead, we must end the expansion of oil, gas and coal and embrace the abundant climate solutions at our fingertips.” The former US vice president has reportedly amassed a $330 million fortune and takes a $2 million monthly salary from a climate-focused investment firm.
According to media reports, Biden’s Interior Department will announce approval of the Willow project in the next few days. Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, confirmed that a decision is “imminent.” She and other lawmakers from the state met with Biden earlier this month to lobby for the ConocoPhillips development.
Biden pledged during his 2020 presidential campaign to end new oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands and speed the transition away from fossil fuels. Nevertheless, he has been criticized for contributing to high energy prices with his policies, prompting him to urge oil companies to boost supplies.