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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 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to sign major climate orders, setting up clash with oil industry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden will sign new executive actions today that provide the clearest signs yet of his climate plans — elevating the issue to a national security priority and kicking off an intense battle with the oil industry.

Driving the news: One move will freeze issuance of new oil-and-gas leases on public lands and waters "to the extent possible," per a White House summary.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

10 hours ago - Economy & Business

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

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