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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The big policy news over the break was the Interior Department's Black Friday release of its review of oil-and-gas leasing policy.

Catch up fast: The long-awaited document recommends higher royalty rates, bidding costs and rental costs.

  • It also calls for a more selective and restrictive approach to deciding which lands and waters to offer, Axios' Torey Van Oot reports.

Why it matters: While federal lands and waters are a relatively small share of U.S. production, there's still expansive development.

  • Climate activists have looked to federal leasing and permitting policy as a place where the Biden administration could impose major new limits on fossil fuel development.

Yes, but: The plan stops far short of President Biden's campaign platform, which vowed sweeping new restrictions.

  • The Black Friday release underscores how the administration is in a politically delicate spot on oil-and-gas policy.
  • The White House faces political jeopardy from elevated gasoline prices and last week announced a major release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

What they're saying: "Lesser availability at higher prices and stricter standards for a smaller pool of bidders may not meet some environmental activists’ hopes for an outright leasing ban," the research firm ClearView Energy Partners said in a note.

  • "But...this approach could still significantly curtail future federal oil and gas production activity while remaining consistent with existing laws."

Go deeper: Oil-and-Gas Companies Should Pay Higher Fees to Drill on Federal Lands, Interior Department Says (WSJ)

Go deeper

Inflation hit 7% in December, highest since 1982

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer prices rose faster in 2021 than they had in any 12-month period since 1982, according to December numbers released Wednesday that showed the inflationary surge continued at the end of the year.

  • The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in December and 7% for the full year. Even excluding volatile energy and food, those numbers were 0.6% and 5.5%.
Updated 9 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

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