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Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Trump administration will unseal bids Wednesday for drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it looks to kickstart the yearslong development process before Biden takes office.

Why it matters: The lease sale will help answer something of a mystery — how interested are companies in the refuge at this point?

  • There could be immense hydrocarbon deposits there, but development efforts will face intense legal battles.
  • And companies face strained budgets, cloudy future demand and prices, and activist pressure to keep clear.

The intrigue: Via Alaska Public Media, in late December the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) voted to authorize up to $20 million in spending on leases.

  • "The idea is that, if AIDEA wins the tracts, it could partner with companies to do the actual drilling," they report
  • "It’s a way for the state to make sure the land is set aside for oil development in case no one else bids on the leases."

The big picture: This week's lease sale is the latest but hardly the last phase of the decades-long battle over the Arctic preserve.

  • Lease sales are mandated under a late 2017 GOP-crafted law.
  • The refuge may contain huge oil deposits that proponents say can be tapped with manageable disruption.
  • But environmentalists oppose development, arguing it's impossible without harming and jeopardizing the ecosystem that's home to caribou, polar bears and other species.
  • Biden opposes drilling, and there's a bunch of bureaucratic and legal levers the new administration can pull.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's plan to upend Trump's environmental legacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will on Wednesday order a government-wide review of over 100 Trump-era policies and direct agencies to prepare a suite of emissions and energy efficiency rules.

Why it matters: New information from transition officials offers the full scope of Biden's imminent, inauguration-day burst of environmental and energy policy moves.

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

58 mins ago - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

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