ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The Trump administration is preparing to auction off oil drilling rights inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the degree of industry involvement is uncertain.
Leases on northeastern Alaska land could be updated days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, the Alaska Bureau of Energy reported on Tuesday.
Supporters, including the congressional delegation from Alaska, celebrated the prospect of a lease sale as a way to create jobs and income. Opponents express concerns about the impacts on ecosystems, indigenous peoples and the climate.
Alaska Oil and Gas Association CEO Kara Moriarty said oil and gas companies remain unsurprised about their intentions.
“Participation in rental sales is one of the most competitive and secret things between businesses,” Moriarty said.
The public is unlikely to learn the industry’s level of interest until the federal government cancels the bids by the date of the sale, which has yet to be announced.
It’s possible that the sale will take place shortly before Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Some industry analysts believe there is a measure of uncertainty and risk that could lead to limited interest in a rental sale over the next two months.
The coronavirus pandemic and an oil price war have hit the oil industry hard. Oil prices remain low and Arctic exploration comes with high costs and hardship, said Mark Myers, geologist and former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner.
“Prices have fallen to a level that leaves very little capital for exploration in these companies,” Myers said.
Rowena Gunn, analyst for energy research firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd., said public criticism of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas could take a heavy toll on publicly traded companies.
Colorado-based energy economist Philip Verleger said he wouldn’t expect a deluge of supply amid uncertainty over future demand for oil and natural gas.
A lease on the refuge would have been “terribly successful” 15 years ago, but the time for developing the coastal plain has passed, Verleger said.
“The cost of going out there, developing and putting the resources there is too high, especially since production would take a long time and we don’t know if the demand will last,” he said. .
that long. “