Biden Seeks Balance With Willow Decision

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The Biden administration’s decision to approve ConocoPhillips’ hotly contested Willow development in Alaska’s North Slope has been met by a firestorm of criticism from greens. Climate activists, which were critical to Biden's 2020 election victory, were quick to point to his campaign pledge against new oil drilling, and already have started litigation to halt the project. However, the decision marks the White House's best attempt to strike a balance between Biden’s oft-stated “more now, less later” strategy on production with broader, longer-term climate and clean energy goals. The US Interior Department on Monday signed off on a final record of decision for the 180,000 barrels per day project, after weeks of intensive lobbying from Alaskan lawmakers and industry officials. By pairing the decision with a surprise move blocking another 16 million acres onshore and offshore Alaska, the administration sought to assuage critics that Willow is a targeted decision and not an "all-systems go" signal on future production, especially in ecologically sensitive regions. Biden’s clean energy advisor, John Podesta, speaking to the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference in Houston last week, warned against overhyping the decision. He acknowledged the project has become “symbolic” but added that “what it really is, is it's an issue for ConocoPhillips, which has a lease on the property and whether we should permit the lease.”

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