Jan 6, 2021 The quieting of “Drill Baby Drill”

Today the U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to auction off leases for oil and gas development on more than one million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), in the northeast corner of Alaska. Funny thing is that the expected herd of interested parties has diminished due to market forces.

Drilling in ANWR has been a decades-old battle and the auction today would seemed to cap the fossil fuel industry’s ultimate victory. Not so fast.

There are ongoing lawsuits, naturally. One set back is that yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said that groups had not shown a level of harms necessary for her to grant an injunction.

But, what’s also happening is market forces are not encouraging the drillers to drill. There are good reasons for not pursuing:

—lower oil prices and the expense of drilling, exacerbated by climate changes, e.g., warming permafrost

—uncertainty about how much oil is recoverable. US Geologic Survey latest estimate is from 1998 and projects around 10 billion barrels but could be either much lower or higher than that.

—ongoing fuel economy is reducing the demand

—increases from other sources, notably fracking

—large financial institutions, including all five major US banks, have refused or are restricting financing

Ultimately, climate change has become so obvious that the call to be better global citizens encourages fossil fuel companies and their financial backers to have second thoughts and tone down the cry to “drill baby drill.”