Biden suspends Trump-era oil drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge

Interior department order follows a temporary moratorium on oil and gas lease activities imposed by president on first day in office

A polar bear keeping close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
A polar bear keeping close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic national wildlife refuge in Alaska. Photograph: Reuters

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About this contentJillian AmbroseWed 2 Jun 2021 10.21 EDT

The Biden administration has reversed plans approved by Donald Trump to allow companies to drill for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge, a remote region that is home to polar bears, caribou – and 11bn barrels of oil.

The decision to suspend the oil drilling licences follows the temporary moratorium on oil and gas lease activities imposed by Joe Biden on his first day in the White House, and serves as a high-profile show of his climate credentials after approving hundreds of requests to drill on federal lands in recent weeks.

Biden used his 2020 presidential campaign to oppose drilling in the remote, 19.6m-acre Alaskan refuge, which is considered sacred by the indigenous Gwich’in communities and is also home to polar bears, caribou, snowy owls and other wildlife, including migrating birds from six continents.

The region has long been an area of deep political contention between Republicans and the oil industry, which have long been trying to open up the oil-rich refuge, and the Democrats, environmental groups and some Alaska Native tribes which have been trying to block drilling since the mid-1990s.

But after a decades-long battle the first sale of the lease areas in the refuge earlier this year failed to attract interest from the oil industry’s biggest players, potentially making the decision to suspend the oil drilling licences an easier option for Biden’s officials which last week angered environmental groups by defending a major oil project on Alaska’s north slope.Advertisement

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The US Department of Justice said the Trump-era decision to allow the project in the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska’s north slope was “reasonable and consistent” with the law and should be allowed to go ahead. It added that opponents of the Willow project were seeking to stop development by “cherry-picking” the records of federal agencies to claim environmental review law violations.

The decision to green light the Willow project, spearheaded by $78bn oil company Conoco-Phillips, was heavily criticised by climate campaigners which claim that it flies in the face of Biden’s pledges to address climate change. It has also raised concern that the Biden administration is not willing to take a stand against US oil giants.

The Arctic is heating up at three times the rate of the rest of the planet and ConocoPhillips will have to resort to installing “chillers” into the Alaskan permafrost, which is rapidly melting due to global heating, to ensure it is stable enough to host drilling equipment.

By contrast, the suspension of oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge is unlikely to be opposed by the oil industry after the the first sale of drilling rights raised less than $15m (£11m) from two small oil drillers and failed to attract interest from companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

Kristen Miller, acting executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, hailed suspension of the Arctic leasing program, which she said was the result of a flawed legal process under Trump.

“Suspending these leases is a step in the right direction, and we commend the Biden administration for committing to a new program analysis that prioritises sound science and adequate tribal consultation,” she said.

More action is needed, Miller said, calling for a permanent cancellation of the leases and repeal of the 2017 law mandating drilling in the refuge’s coastal plain.

The drilling mandate was included in a massive tax cut approved by congressional Republicans during Trump’s first year in office. Republicans said it could generate an estimated $1bn over 10 years, a figure Democrats call preposterously overstated.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Nation steering committee, thanked the president and the interior secretary, Deb Haaland, and said that tribal leaders are heartened by the Biden administration’s “commitment to protecting sacred lands and the Gwich’in way of life”.

Agencies contributed to this report

Test drilling for oil in Namibia’s Okavango region poses toxic risk

Test drilling for oil in Namibia’s Okavango region poses toxic risk (

Jeffrey Barbee  4 hrs ago

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The Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica began exploratory drilling in Namibia upstream of the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in January. According to the company’s aerial imagery and an independent review, they don’t appear to have taken what experts say is an environmentally responsible measure to protect the local water supply from contamination.a group of giraffe standing on top of a grass covered field: Botswana. Okavango Delta. Khwai concession. Pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) looking out for prey.© Photograph by Danita Delimont, Alamy Stock Photo Botswana. Okavango Delta. Khwai concession. Pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) looking out for prey.

Namibia is a water-scarce country, and when news of the company’s project became more widespread, communities expressed concern that contaminants from drilling would seep into shallow aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation for crops.

Conservationists also worry that contamination from the test drilling could affect wildlife in the vicinity—elephants, Temminck’s ground pangolins, African wild dogs, martial eagles—and in the UNESCO-recognized Okavango Delta some 160 miles downstream.

A large waste, or reserve, pit next to the first test well appears in a video that ReconAfrica posted on its website on January 10. Such pits are for storing the mud, fluids, and other materials—which may contain dangerous chemicals or be hypersaline—that come up when drilling for oil or natural gas. In British Columbia, Canada, where ReconAfrica is based, it’s standard industry practice to line these pits with an impermeable barrier that prevents chemicals from seeping into the earth and groundwater.a train is parked on the side of a dirt field: tktk© Photograph by John Grobler tktk

ReconAfrica spokesperson Claire Preece told National Geographic in October 2020 that drill cuttings would “be managed in lined pits.” She also said that “ReconAfrica follows Namibian regulations and policies as well as international best practices.” According to Namibian law, the company must “control the flow and prevent the waste, escape or spilling” of petroleum, drilling fluid, water or any other substance from the well.

In the company’s video, no lining is visible.

Namibian journalist John Grobler, who visited the site on January 23, confirmed to National Geographic that the reserve pit was unlined and had liquid pooling in it.

“From an environmental aspect this is grossly unacceptable, and from a social aspect [it] is reckless and disgraceful,” says Jan Arkert, a consulting engineering geologist based in Uniondale, South Africa, who has worked for decades on drilling-related projects. “The communities are totally dependent on groundwater for domestic and agricultural purposes, and any contamination to the aquifer will be all but impossible to contain and clean up.”

Video: Radioactive contamination (AFP)

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Arkert says that if the company chose to line the pit now, after drilling has started, it would be complicated. It would involve multiple steps, including removing the waste already there and disposing of it at a suitable facility, preparing the underlying gravel layer to ensure it won’t puncture the liner, and then installing the liner itself, which might have to be imported. Each step, Arkert says, is time consuming and likely would take at least three to four weeks.

“It looks to me like drilling fluids from the rig are being discharged into the unlined reserve pit,” says Matt Totten, Jr., a former exploration geologist for the oil and gas industry who has worked on projects in the United States, after he examined ReconAfrica’s video and still images. “Notice the dark brown discolored areas in the pond next to the rig where drilling fluids would be discharged.”

After reviewing another aerial video from drill site published by the German news program VOX on March 4, Totten confirmed that the now very full pit still “appears unlined and likely filled with a mixture of rainwater and drilling fluids.”

ReconAfrica did not respond to multiple requests for comment about its reserve pit.

To get permission from the Namibian government to drill exploratory wells, ReconAfrica had to do an assessment of their environmental impacts. The company’s resulting report referred to a waste “pond” and noted that it would “scrape all waste that has collected in the pond and dispose of these and the pond lining at a suitable site.”

Arkert, who joined a Zoom conference on oil and gas development in Africa on February 17 hosted by the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, asked Scot Evans, the CEO of ReconAfrica, why the company didn’t line the pit.

Evans didn’t answer the question directly but said that in Canada the fluid “is used as fertilizer.” He added, “We are going to have a little experiment when we are done with the local [agriculture] people to introduce fertilizers to the community.”

According to Arkert, that answer “can only be described as bizarre,” because Evans is referring only to the drill fluid. But what’s particularly dangerous are naturally occurring compounds such as benzene, ethylene, toluene, and zylene, as well as radioactive water, which come to the surface if petroleum is discovered. The “brew that is stored in the unlined containment pond will be a cocktail of toxic liquid waste, fit only for disposal in a hazardous landfill site,” Arkert says.

Other experts agree. Water coming up the well when drilling into oil and gas formations “is typically saline, contains oil and grease, and can contain toxic organic and inorganic compounds, and naturally occurring radioactive materials,” says Surina Esterhuyse, a geohydrologist with the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Some of those chemicals have been proven to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders in people, according to a 2016 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

According to a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, reserve pits can contaminate farmland, streams, and drinking water sources and “can entrap and kill migratory birds and other wildlife.”

It is unclear what protocols ReconAfrica has followed for its first Namibian test well reserve pit to protect the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here, and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to

Trump auctions Arctic refuge to oil drillers in last strike against US wilderness

Sales of drilling rights are the climax to one of the nation’s highest-profile environmental battles
Supported byAbout this content

Emily Holden in Washington

Tue 5 Jan 2021 05.37 ESTLast modified on Tue 5 Jan 2021 11.21 EST


Rivers run through the lush tundra valleys of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
 Rivers run through the lush tundra valleys of Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge. Photograph: Acacia Johnson

In one of its last strikes against the American wilderness, Donald Trump’s administration will on Wednesday auction off portions of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil drillers.

The lease sales are the climax to one of the nation’s highest-profile environmental battles. The lands on the northern coastal plain of Alaska are home to denning polar bears and migrating herds of Porcupine caribou that indigenous communities depend on and consider sacred. But the oil industry has long suspected that the ground beneath the plain holds billions of barrels of petroleum. up for monthly updates on America’s public lands

Once the leases in the refuge, known as ANWR, are sold to energy companies, they would be difficult to claw back. The incoming president, Joe Biden, could, however, discourage development in the refuge by putting regulatory hurdles in the way of drillers.

The refuge has become central to America’s debate over how quickly to stop drilling for and burning fossil fuels as the climate crisis accelerates. Climate experts say there should be no new oil and gas extraction, as the world is already more than 1C hotter than pre-industrial times. Even if humans stopped using fossil fuels today, the planet would continue to heat.

Oil from drilling west of the refuge, at Prudhoe Bay, has fueled the economic development the state has depended on to fill its coffers and write annual revenue checks to residents. That extraction also led to the most damaging oil spill in history, when the Exxon Valdez tanker spewed millions of barrels off Alaska’s southern coast in 1989.

Prudhoe Bay“was the largest oil field ever discovered in North America. Since then we have had more than 1,500 sq miles of oil and gas development in the Alaskan Arctic … but [ANWR] has been off limits,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

“For us, it symbolizes just what’s at stake here. If you can’t draw a line at the tundra and keep this one area of the Arctic off limits, then the question is, where can you draw the line and what protected part or wildlife refuge in the United States will remain off limits?”

President Dwight Eisenhower designated the Arctic refuge in 1960, and in the ensuing decades, the industry and Republicans pushed for drilling there, while the US was trying to reduce its reliance on suppliers in the Middle East. That push continues even though oil is now plentiful, and a fracking boom has made the US a net exporter rather than importer.

Republicans in the US Congress and in Alaska achieved their goal in 2017, when they inserted a provision authorizing drilling into Trump’s landmark tax bill.

 America’s last wilderness is about to go to the highest bidder for oil drilling

Kim Heacox Read more

Trump and congressional Republicans argued that the government’s earnings from drilling in the refuge could help pay for the proposed tax cuts, which favored corporations and wealthier Americans. They said development would generate $900m, although an analysis by the non-partisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, based on historical bid data, found that it would bring in just a fraction of that amount – no more than $27.6m. That would be split between the federal government and the state of Alaska.Advertisement

“The fact that this was being offered as an offset was definitely insincere at best, and we thought that was just kind of a joke,” said Autumn Hanna, vice-president of the group.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has argued the government should not be leasing any public land to oil and gas drilling now, while prices for the commodities are low and supplies are high worldwide. During the pandemic, oil demand has plunged as businesses have been shut down and people have driven less.

“We’re not opposed to oil and gas drilling, but we’re opposed to short-changing taxpayers,” Hanna said.

Industry interest in developing new oilfields is so low that some have suggested there might not be any bids for some tracts of land on the coastal plain. The former governors Frank Murkowski and Bill Walker have encouraged the state to bid on any unwanted tracts itself, and last week a state-owned economic development corporation voted to authorize bidding up to $20m.

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“If there are no bidders on the lease sales at all, Alaska will likely never be able to develop our oil and gas potential from ANWR,” Murkowski said in an opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News, where he also noted the oil and gas industry had historically contributed 70% of the state’s revenue.

On Monday, the Trump administration also dramatically expanded the area where the government can lease public land for oil drilling to the west of ANWR.

The plan would allow drilling in 82% of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area bigger than the state of West Virginia, according to environmental groups, though the Biden administration could reverse that decision more easily than it could hold off drilling in ANWR.

Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a Native Alaskan community of around 300 people, near Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
 Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a Native Alaskan community of around 300 people, near Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge. Photograph: Acacia Johnson


Native groups in Alaska have fought ANWR drilling proposals with lawsuits. For the Gwich’in, indigenous Alaskans who have migrated alongside the caribou and relied upon them as a food source, the fight is personal. They formed the Gwich’in Steering Committee in 1988 to oppose drilling in the coastal plain, which they call the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.

“We come from some of the strongest people that ever walked this earth. They survived some of the coldest, harshest winters so that we can be here,” Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the committee, said during an AM radio segment last week. “I feel like this is my responsibility as a Gwich’in, to protect the caribou.”

Polar bear advocates say the habitat is also critical to a population in dire straits from development and rising temperatures that are melting sea ice. The Arctic is heating at a much faster pace than the rest of the world. Polar bear numbers in Alaska and western Canada declined 40% from 2001 to 2010, said Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International.

“If we want to have the best chance possible of maintaining that population until the time that we stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, we need to protect them on the ground as best we can,” Amstrup said.

Ken Whitten, a former caribou biologist for the state of Alaska, said drilling was likely to displace wildlife. “It’s the core of the Porcupine caribou herd calving area. It’s the major onshore denning place for polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, which is becoming more and more important as the sea ice disappears.”

The plain is a narrow band of land between mountains and the coast, so animals do not have many options when they are forced to relocate, he said. Much of the surrounding area is already being drilled.

“We are a wealthy nation,” Whitten said. “We can afford to leave some areas alone.”

Democrats say Interior botched polar bear study in pursuit to drill ANWR

BY REBECCA BEITSCH – 07/17/20 03:07 PM EDT 6144,433

Just In…


Democrats say Interior botched polar bear study in pursuit to drill ANWR

© Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers are pushing back against Department of the Interior plans to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR,) arguing the agency wasn’t thorough before concluding that drilling activity wouldn’t harm local polar bears.

A review of the environmental impacts of drilling in the area “makes the unsupportable conclusion that industrializing the entire Coastal Plain—including the most important terrestrial denning habitat for among the most imperiled polar bear population on the planet—will not jeopardize the survival and recovery of the species,” Democratic lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to Interior in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).

“This fundamentally flawed analysis ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence that identifies devastating impacts to polar bears from oil and gas activities,” they added.

The so-called biological opinion produced on the topic came after the department in February made the unusual decision to open its research to public comment. The already peer-reviewed research looked at how seismic activity from the oil and gas industry affects polar bear “denning” as they raise their young cubs.

Environmentalists and scientists raised the alarm, calling it an attempt by the Trump administration to discredit its own government scientists.

“What it looks like to me is they’re giving industry the opportunity to negate the study,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The 2017 tax bill opened the door to drilling in the arctic, something Interior noted in its response.

“Representative Huffman and the other Democrat members who signed this erroneous letter apparently don’t understand that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in 2017 requires an oil and gas leasing program in the Coastal Plain. It would serve them well to have a better, basic understanding of the laws under the jurisdiction of the Committee,” the department said in an email.

A number of major banks, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, have already pledged not to finance any drilling in ANWR.

The department recently finalized another rule that would allow hunting tactics that make it easier to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska.

The rule, finalized in June, ends a five-year ban on baiting hibernating bears from their dens, shining a flashlight into wolf dens to cause them to scurry, targeting animals from airplanes or snowmobiles and shooting swimming caribou from boats.

Judge orders Dakota Access pipeline shut down pending review

In his order on Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote that the closure must take place in the next 30 days.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Holds Rally In Opposition To Dakota Access Pipeline

A demonstrator in front of the White House during a protest organized by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous grassroots leaders against the Dakota Access pipeline in March 2017.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images fileJuly 6, 2020, 8:27 AM PDT / Updated July 6, 2020, 9:32 AM PDTBy Elizabeth Chuck

A federal judge on Monday ordered the Dakota Access pipeline to shut down pending further environmental review, a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote that the pipeline must close in the next 30 days.

Protesters have argued that the oil pipeline project poses both a cultural and an environmental threat to the land it runs through. Proponents say it is a financial boon, creating jobs and bringing money into local economies.

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a press release. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on. ”

Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, called it a historic day.

“This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning,” he said in the same press release.

Energy Transfer, the Texas-based company behind the pipeline, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the oil company has insisted in the past that the pipeline, which runs underneath the Missouri River where the Standing Rock tribe draws its water from, is safe.

During its construction along the border of North Dakota and South Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is, protesters around the country gathered in support of the tribe. The protests led to numerous arrests and were at times violent.

Arrests at Standing Rock As Protesters’ Eviction Deadline Passes

FEB. 22, 201701:27

Monday’s court decision comes after an order on March 25 from the same judge, which said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should conduct a full environmental review of the pipeline. At the time, it was not clear whether the order would shut down the pipeline, which has carried oil for three years.

“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect. It readily acknowledges that, even with the currently low demand for oil, shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states,” Boasberg wrote in his order on Monday.

Permits for the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile underground pipeline had initially been rejected by the Obama administration. The permits for it were granted in February 2017 under President Donald Trump, when the Army Corps of Engineers stated it had found no significant environmental threats posed by the project.

Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a Republican, slammed the court order shortly after it was released.

“Shutting down the Dakota Access pipeline would have devastating consequences to North Dakota and to America’s energy security,” Cramer said in a statement. “This terrible ruling should be promptly appealed.”

Our planet is in crisis. We don’t have time for Trump’s foolishness.

Hurricane Florence is one of many signs of climate change, and those who deny it are complicit in the destruction, meteorologist Eric Holthaus says. 


October 8 at 6:58 PM

Here is how to interpret the alarming new United Nations-sponsored report on global warming: We are living in a horror movie. The world needs statesmen to lead the way to safety. Instead, we have President Trump, who essentially says, “Hey, let’s all head to the dark, creepy basement where the chain saws and razor-sharp axes are kept. What could go wrong?”

The answer is almost everything, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The impact of human-induced warming is worse than previously feared, the report released Monday says, and only drastic, coordinated action will keep the damage short of catastrophe.

To this point, climate change has been a slow-motion calamity whose impacts, month to month and year to year, have been hard to perceive. Unfortunately, according to the report, that is about to change.

The burning of fossil fuels on an industrial scale has raised global temperatures by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not sound like much, but look at the consequences we’re already seeing: Stronger, slower, wetter tropical storms. Unprecedented heat waves. Devastating floods. Dying coral reefs. A never-before-seen summer shipping lane across the Arctic Ocean.

Meanwhile, humankind continues to pump heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a tragically self-destructive rate. The IPCC calculates that a further temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius — almost inevitable, given our dependence on coal, oil and gas — would be challenging but manageable. An increase of about 2 degrees, however, would be disastrous.

What’s the difference? With a 1.5-degree rise, about 14 percent of the world’s population would be vulnerable to severe and deadly heat waves every five years; with a 2-degree rise, that figure jumps to 37 percent. With a 1.5-degree rise, an additional 350 million city dwellers worldwide will face water shortages; with a 2-degree rise, 411 million people will suffer such drought. With a 1.5-degree rise, coral reefs will experience “very frequent mass mortalities”; with a 2-degree rise, coral reefs will “mostly disappear.”

U.N. scientists warn of limited time to control climate change

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said there is no precedent for the sweeping changes required to control the planet’s warming. 

Small differences can have huge impacts. Under the 1.5-degree scenario, up to 69 million people will be newly exposed to flooding. Under the 2-degree scenario — which the report estimates would boost sea-level rise by as much as 36 inches — the number rises to 80 million.

Please don’t dismiss all of this as just another boring compendium of carefully hedged facts and figures. I have followed the IPCC’s research since covering the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The new report strikes a different tone that combines weary fatalism with hair-on-fire alarm. In dry, just-the-facts language, it predicts declining fisheries, failing crops, more widespread risk from tropical diseases such as malaria, economic dislocation in the most-affected countries — and, by logical extension, greater political instability.

All of these impacts are bad with 1.5 more degrees of temperature rise. With 2 degrees they are much, much worse.

The obvious solution is to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. The IPCC says emissions need to decline by at least 40 percent by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, if we are to hold warming to 1.5 degrees. Yet last year, according to the International Energy Agency, global emissions hit an all-time high.

Since 2016, representatives of 195 nations — including all the big emitters — signed on to the landmark Paris agreement calling for systematic emissions reductions beginning in 2020. But Trump, who has ignorantly called climate change a “hoax,” decided to withdraw the United States from the pact. Even worse, Trump is aggressively trying to increase reliance on coal, which contributes a disproportionate amount of carbon dioxide emissions compared with other fossil fuels.

U.S. carbon emissions actually fell slightly in 2017, because of the expansion of the renewable energy sector. But Trump administration policies are designed to reverse that trend; and if they fail to do so, it will be because the rest of the world is already moving toward clean energy — a huge economic shift that threatens to leave the United States behind.

When you read the IPCC report, you see that what the world really needs is visionary leadership. As the world’s greatest economic power and its second-largest carbon emitter, the United States is uniquely capable of shepherding a global transition to renewable energy. Instead, the Trump administration rejects the science of climate change and actively favors dirty energy sources over clean ones.

Humanity has no time for such foolishness. “I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the president of the globe,” Trump thundered at a recent rally. On what planet does he think this nation resides?

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

BREAKING: Trump administration pushes forward on Arctic Refuge drilling

From Defendersorg

Today the Trump administration announced the start of a process to sell out the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for destructive oil and gas development.

This announcement is especially outrageous since it comes just one day before the 8th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an industrial disaster that left thousands of animals – from dolphins to birds to sea turtles – covered in oil, and huge swaths of water and beaches covered in chemicals and sludge.

Jim, when will they stop subjecting our precious wildlife and wild lands to such dangerous, irresponsible industrialization?

The Trump administration’s reckless dash to expedite drilling and desecrate the Arctic Refuge is unacceptable.

Stop the Noise

Stephen Capra

We are living through one of the most difficult periods in conservation history, in a country led by a madman, supported by people that see life through authoritarian rule. The rhetoric and constant stream of nausea created by this leader and his Republican accomplices and excusers isdesigned to keep one off balance, fatigued and scared.

Ignorance and fear are driving a wedge across our nation and people seem more willing than ever to throw away the environment in pursuit of living wages. This has been the turning point for the conservative movement and the crystallization of their efforts to destroy unions, social safety nets and common sense regulation of industry. We are developing a nation of workers, who will work anyway, on any terms, to survive. Nothing has had more direct impact on conservation and protection of species than the destruction of the middle-class that began in earnest during the Reagan years.

We need a society once again that is based in justice and fairness, we need corporations that are forced by rule of law to pay real wages and benefits to all that work for them and we must understand that a stock market built on mergers and acquisitions and returns to shareholders is not good for the environment, because it is killing our middle-class.

Last week I ran into our junior Senator Martin Heinrich, Martin has always been and remains a strong supporter of the environmental causes such as wilderness and monument protections and has been a friend for more than 18 years. When I ran into him I made a proposal, which he said he would give real thought to.

I told him that under the Obama Administration, Republicans continued to introduce legislation no matter if it could pass because they believed in putting down markers and growing their base with legislation that they supported.

In that vein, I suggested that he introduce a package of legislation that was designed to enhance our middle-class and to support a real vision for environmental protection. No half steps, a real vision, something to inspire those who believe in protections for environment and security and jobs for workers across the country, because we cannot continue to see them as separate causes.

The environmental community often brings in different voices when they need support for wilderness or other conservation measures, but the link now is vital and must be reciprocal.

We must support minimum wages and job training and we must demand a real social safety net that is expanded, not chopped. In the conservation realm, we must introduce legislation that is inspiring and designed to capture our nation’s imagination.

Here are a few suggestions, humbly put forth:

  • An end to offshore drilling in the Arctic, our East and West coasts.
  • The immediate protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 50% increase in investment in alternative energy by 2020.
  • More tax cuts for electric cars and solar.
  • Funding that will completely end the backlog of maintenance for our National Parks in three years.
  • Expansion of our National Park System to include a major Tall Grass Prairie Park of no less than 500,000 acres and three new sites for National Park expansion, not just upgrading an area.
  • Legislation that demands the use of science in classroom textbooks nationwide.
  • Protections to remain and expanded for the threated Monuments on land and in the ocean and a directive to create 10 new Monuments by 2021.
  • Serious funding and legislation for Climate Change and a return to the Paris accords as a leader.
  • No dispersing of the Interior Department across the nation.
  • The directive and funding to increase wilderness in America by 35% by 2024.
  • The end of predator species killing and killing in their dens, period.
  • Expansion of wolf recovery to all Western states.
  • Increase in fees to ranchers for using public lands.
  • Monies for a new restoration and training program designed for rural and ranching communities to restore public lands, waters, andriparian areas. These monies would come from new taxes on the oil and gas industry.
  • 50 million in funding to purchase grazing rights across the West, with more to come by increasing grazing fees.
  • The immediate end to Wildlife Services, with that funding going directly to wildlife programs that support predator species.
  • The expansion and upgrading of the Endangered Species Act.
  • Direct reductions of oil and gas leases by 50 percent by 2020 on public lands.
  • Creating an increase of funding to the EPA by 45% by 2020.
  • Real legislation to control and regulate pesticides in America and increased funding for organic farming, including increased tax incentives.

To do this and to improve the plight of all Americans Congress must move to end the tax cut imposed by Republicans this past December and more taxes must be placed directly on the top 1%.

Increase spending for birth control her at home and internationally.

Stop all the giveaways to corporate America and force them to return monies to American shores.

More taxes must be placed directly on the fossil-fuel industry and that of Power companies that continue to use coal in their power generation.

We must put a direct tax on the use of plastics, plastic bags and the companies that create them, largely funded by the oil and gas industry.

The passage of a real HealthCare legislation (likely single payer), that will reduce the costs of healthcare for all Americans, while ensuring quality care for all. That will save money and create real equality.

Reducing the endless spending on the military, while investing in dialogue, diplomacy and respecting all nations. That common sense element will give us the money to protect our environment, here and abroad.

Finally, we must remove the control of Congress from complete Republican control.

More than anything we must understand the urgency of saving our environment and the strong need to end all the noise and distraction that is the toxic nature of this President and Congress.

We may not get it all, but my hope is that Senator Heinrich and the Democrats in Congress are prepared to be BOLD. It begins with a real vision and the strength to carry it forward.

If we do not act soon, it will simply be too late for this planet. We have no choice, we must be BOLD.

Save Bryde’s whales from extinction

What this message is about

The fragile population of Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico declined by almost 20 percent in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and another 20 percent are estimated to have suffered health and reproductive effects as a result. Fewer than 100 of these whales are believed to be alive in the region.

Their limited year-round habitat is once again being targeted by oil and gas developers, putting them at risk of extinction if more isn’t done to protect them.

Please urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to list Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act in order to safeguard their future.

Is the hydrocarbon economy too big to fail?

Is the hydrocarbon economy too big to fail?

If the woefully inadequate outcome of the Paris climate conference is any indication, the answer is still a resounding “Yes!” That’s because the overly optimistic agreement conspicuously ignored the core issue driving up the earth’s temperature and warping the world’s already misshaped markets.

The problem is Big Oil.

Simply put, Big Oil is a bad investment fueled by irrational exuberance, chronic cronyism and an increasingly indefensible misallocation of capital. And decades of throwing good money after bad has produced a distorted economic system that socializes risk, privatizes profits, externalizes costs and misallocates capital. This continues because policy makers sustain it with taxpayer-funded subsidies, costly tax breaks and low-overhead access to publicly held resources.

By failing to institute much-needed cost internalization mechanisms and by completely avoiding the key problem of government subsidization, the cork-popping cadre of COP21 tacitly admitted what most cynics already knew – policy makers still believe “Big Oil” is far too big to fail. But, like other distorted markets in history, the correction is coming. The growing impact of climate change is exposing the key fallacy at the heart of the hydrocarbon economy: Big Oil cannot simply exempt itself from the natural economy governing all things in this closed system called planet Earth.

It’s Only Natural

Since Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, few ideas have captured the capitalist imagination like the notion that “an invisible hand” directs enterprising, self-interested individuals to produce a widely distributed wealth of social goods in spite of their self-serving intentions.

When the “self-serving” butcher, brewer or baker sells quality products at a fair price, they each profit from the returning patronage of their customers. Their customers enjoy good meat, fine ale and fresh bread. An invisible hand rewards these enlightened purveyors with enough money to eat well and drink well, too. And in the process, the whole village eats and drinks and thrives. But unenlightened sellers – those who peddle unnatural combinations of poor products at high prices – are driven out of business by the unsustainable inefficiencies produced by bad decisions and ill intentions.

This market correction happens, in no small part, because they’ve thrown the whole town – which is itself a mini financial ecosystem – completely out of balance with their bad meat and the lost wages from food-borne illnesses. Even worse is the disruption to the ethical butcher who gets undercut by malicious pricing from unscrupulous sellers. But, according to the theory, an invisible hand restores order to the town’s financial ecosystem when consumers react and economic balance is restored.

It’s taken a while for all those bad debts and poor investments to fill up the ecological balance sheet with red ink.

Over time, free-market devotees transformed Smith’s original theory of “an invisible hand” into “the invisible hand.” They believe “the hand” is a universal, natural force governing markets, meting out economic justice and controlling the fate of humankind. And they may be right. But they may also be surprised to find that “the hand” is connected to the right arm of Mother Nature and she’s using it to punish one of history’s most inefficient and least “enlightened” business models. By turning up the thermostat, filling the seas, altering climactic patterns and disrupting food chains, nature’s increasingly visible hand is “correcting” the shortsighted, heavily subsidized use of hydrocarbons to power an unsustainable, ecosystem-denuding industrial system.

Back in 1776, Adam Smith bemoaned the problem of unenlightened short-term thinking in investment and the distortions caused by corporate influence in politics. Like the seller of bad meat at an artificially low price, Big Oil has profited mightily from a short-term emphasis on high returns while its disproportionate political influence ensured the global village subsidized everything it’s been selling.

But Mother Nature is not a day trader…