In the final days of the Trump administration, there was a rush to sell oil drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a sort of “going-out-of-business” sale at a White House that was seizing its last chance to auction off the nation’s natural heritage to the oil and gas industry.
Now, the Biden administration is hitting the pause button on this anti-conservationist betrayal. On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland issued an order suspending oil and gas leases in ANWAR citing various violations of law and regulations committed by her predecessors. The polar bears, caribou, snowy owls and other birds and beasts that thrive in the 19.6 million acre refuge can breathe easier, for now at least, as can humans who care about preservation of wild places and who are alarmed by the global slide toward catastrophic changes in the climate due to the burning of fossil fuels.
The battle over ANWR has been going on for decades. When Republicans have been in charge, the oil men have been happy; when Democrats have been in charge, environmentalists have been happy. Perhaps, by the next time a Republican is in the White House, the point will be moot. Dramatic changes in the energy industry and the auto industry are steering our future away from oil and gas and toward windmills, solar power and electric vehicles.
The oil and gas drillers are living on borrowed time. There is no reason to despoil the far reaches of Alaska to keep them in business for a few more years.
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