His decision to cancel the two permits approved by Trump to exploit oil in an Arctic reserve in which the industry is reluctant to invest is a ‘book’ public relations move. The new US president alternates the cancellation of energy projects with environmental impact with the support of other

Oil extraction in Prudhoe Bay, in the vicinity of the Alaska Wildlife RefugeGETTY

Updated Thursday, June 10, 2021 –

  • Climate crisis The Arctic’s dilemma: take advantage of its valuable resources or protect its fragile nature

“NATO, from the outset, no.” Does anyone remember that slogan? It is the phrase with which Felipe González’s PSOE summed up its opposition to the entry of Spain into the Western defensive alliance created around the United States. It was an ambiguous slogan. What did it mean? To enter NATO, nothing? Or in principle, we are against entering NATO, but then we will see? Public opinion took the first option. Until March 12, 1986, Spain held a referendum on entry into NATO in which the Government of Felipe González defended the ‘s’.

Almost four decades later, the Joe Biden government seems to have adopted Felipe González’s strategy, only in terms of energy and mining policy. “Coal and oil, to begin with, no” seems to be the slogan of the White House. On the same day he arrived at the White House, Biden withdrew approval for the construction of the XL leg of the Keystone pipeline, which carries oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands fields – one of the most CO2 producing crude types. due to the incredibly complicated extraction – to the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, there were half a million barrels per day that had no outlet to the Atlantic, after a political and legal battle that had lasted for more than a decade.

In the same Executive Order, Biden opens the doors to expand four National Monuments – a figure that offers a level of protection similar to that of the Spanish Nature Reserves -, among them Bear’s Ear, in Utah, which has coal, petroleum , and natural gas. The surface of those Monuments had been reduced by Donald Trump. Bear’s Ear, which is located in an incredible region of canyons and deserts that looks like the set of a movie, had been, more than reduced, ‘jibarizado’, losing 85% of its surface in 2017.

Deb Haaland, an Indian environmentalist

Biden has also appointed Deb Haaland Secretary of the Interior, whose name for the Spanish reader is misleading, since in the United States the public body that manages practically all the land owned by the federal State, as well as a large part of the lands, is called this. natural resources. It is a significant appointment for two reasons. The most obvious: it is the first time in the history of the United States that an indigenous person has held a position in the president’s cabinet. Haaland, a congressman for New Mexico, belongs to the Pueblo tribe, whose name was given to them by the Spanish settlers in the region. The second, because she is a ‘tough’ ecologist, who has opposed fossil energies and, also, the use of state land for prospecting and mining. Finally, last week the Department of the Interior canceled the authorization to prospect for oil and gas in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, a vast expanse of nine million hectares – as much as all of Castile and Len – located in Northern Alaska. Alaska.

So where is the comparison with Gonzlez and NATO?

The answer to that question is a precisely American saying: “the devil is in the details.” The suspension of the surveys of the Alaska Wildlife Refuge only affects two permits, approved, literally, in secret by the outgoing Trump administration, on January 6, and that were not made public until the 19, that is, 24 hours before the transfer of powers. The review of Bear’s Ear (literally The Ear of the Bear “) is still ongoing. And the Biden administration continued in January and February to grant permits to oil companies for them to drill on publicly owned land in search of crude oil and gas through controversial method of ‘fracking’, or ‘hydraulic fracturing’.

In fact, The decision to cancel the two permits at the Arctic Wildlife Refuge appears to have been a ‘book’ public relations gamble. The announcement came on the same day that Haaland announced that the Biden government is going to support in court the oil company ConocoPhilips, which has been taken to court by several environmental defense organizations for its Willow project (“Birch “), with which it plans to pump 100,000 barrels of oil a day. And where is Project Willow? In Alaska, very close to the borders of the Wildlife Refuge.

Willow’s case is not isolated. Certain: Biden ‘killed’ the XL, but supports the construction of the Dakota-Access pipeline, uA pipeline of almost 2,000 kilometers in length that will take the heavy oil obtained through ‘fracking’ in North Dakota to the state of Illinois, where it will be connected to other networks that will take it to the Atlantic and, from there, to the rest of the world. The same is the case with the Resolution Mine, a joint project of the Anglo-Australian giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to exploit the largest copper deposit in North America in the Arizona desert, precisely on traditional land belonging to the Apache tribe. consider sacred.

What, then, is Biden’s play? Be in favor of some things and against others? Well yes. The president and his collaborators know that these megaprojects have a huge impact on public opinion, and that you can play with them to gain the support of senators and congressmen for their plans to build infrastructure and expand the Welfare State. That’s critical in states like Alaska, Utah, North Dakota, or Arizona, which tend to align with the Republican Party. It is not about banning all projects. Only to tighten regulations in some – like Dakota Access – or to ‘compensate’ approvals with cancellations.

In the case of the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, Biden has also had the economy going for him. The economy because, with the current price of a barrel of oil and the consumption prospects of that energy source stabilizing or even falling, going to explore in Alaska is a considerable financial risk. In fact, the Trump administration hoped to get hundreds of millions in royalty payments from the January 6 auction. He only got 14 million dollars (just over 11 million euros).

No major oil company wanted to invest in a project at literally the end of the world, at a time when Wall Street is pressuring them to give profits and dividends, not to produce. Biden has banned drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, where it has never been drilled before. The market, however, had already made its decision in favor of not looking for oil there.

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