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BP CEO Bob Dudley in 2015. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

BP CEO Bob Dudley showed a muted appetite for pursuing drilling in new areas off America’s coasts in an exclusive interview with Axios this week.

Why it matters: Dudley's comments throw cold water on the idea oil companies are going to jump on drilling new wells off America’s coasts in response to the Trump administration proposal to open up almost all federal waters to new leasing. The reality is more complicated — and less compelling — than top administration officials have made it seem as they pursue President Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda.

“For us, we’ve got a very full plate in the United States,” Dudley said. “We don’t have a plan that says, ‘Here’s what we’re interested in’ because we have prioritized a lot of activity, including reducing exploration and the size of the company.”

BP has a unique portfolio that’s got Dudley cautious about drilling in new areas, including its continued response to its 2010 oil spill that nearly bankrupted the global oil producer and its already big presence in the Western Gulf of Mexico.

But Dudley’s caution is likely shared by other major oil companies, analysts say, for a few reasons:

  1. Continued low oil prices, relative to 2014.
  2. Pressure by shareholders to continue keeping costs down even as oil prices have risen in recent days to three-year highs.
  3. Continued focus on onshore shale oil and natural gas, which offer cheaper, quicker ways to produce the fuel.
  4. Political, regulatory and litigation obstacles in new areas, such as off the coasts of Pacific and Atlantic states.
“While oil prices are up, companies will not suddenly forget the hard lessons of cost discipline and a clear portfolio strategy that the low price period left them,” said Jamie Webster, senior director for energy at the Boston Consulting Group.

Yes, but: Leasing is not the same as drilling. Companies may still bid for leases even if they have no immediate plans to drill, according to Kevin Book, managing director at independent research firm ClearView Energy Partners. The Interior Department plan released last week is for the years between 2019 and 2024, and a lot can change with oil prices and otherwise between now and then.

Other relevant highlights from our exclusive interview with Dudley:

  • On BP’s interest in drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which is now legally allowed after Republicans included a provision in the new tax law: “The honest answer is we don’t know … so we and I think most companies have got to have a good hard look in the geology over there.”
  • On BP being in the group of companies that has drilled the only well ever in ANWR: “The results of that well are highly confidential, legally protected … Even I haven’t even seen that.”
  • On drilling off the coast of Florida, which was in the original Interior Department plan before being abruptly removed after pressure from the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott: “We would probably not drill within sight of the coast of Florida, most certainly.”

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.