Alaska: Lease Sale Struggles
After decades of dispute, the rights to drill for oil on about 5% of the 78,000 km2 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) went ahead in the last months of the Trump presidency. Opponents have criticised the rushed nature of the sale and the results have been poor. The government sold only 11 tracts of the 22 it was offering in the refuge’s coastal plain, or about 550,000 acres out of around one million offered. Revenues raised through the sales were low at approximately $14.4 million and none of Alaska’s three top oil producers, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Hilcorp, participated.
The push for exploration in the park has been a decades-long battle between oil companies and environmental and indigenous opponents. Supporters of the sale believe that the ANWR shares the same geology, and potential reserves of crude oil as Prudhoe Bay, which is the largest oil field in North America. The change of leadership in the White House means it is likely that efforts to explore for and extract new reserves in Alaska will be subject to further review and delay.