On Wednesday, Jan. 6th, 2021 Trump administration, just two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, made a frantic attempt to auction off a chunk of long-protected Arctic wildlife refuge to oil companies. The companies that the administration believed would be eager to bid, turned out to have little to no interest in purchasing the land according to The Guardian. As a result, Alaska was forced into a position to lease the land itself.
The administration planned to pay for the Republican’s tax cuts with the oil revenues from this auction or lease as said by Reuters. The potential leases of the land, as said by the government, could add up to 900 million dollars towards the cuts. Half of that money would be given to the state and the other half would be for the federal government.
Lease sales would be a disappointment with the high goal of $900m according to Metro . The nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, based on previous bidding numbers, discovered that they would bring in no more than $27.6m. Their predictions were correct, and the overall income for the high bids totaled around half of that: around 14.4 million was paid for 11 tracts of land.This totaled up to 600,000 acres out of 1.6 million.
Autun Hanna the vice president of the Taxpayers for Common Sense was quoted in The Guardian stating “The fact that this was being offered as an offset was definitely insincere at best, and we thought that was just kind of a joke.”
Despite that, they fell several hundred million dollars short of their goal. U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Director, Chad Padgett says that “While it might not meet some of the targets that some folks think it should meet, it’s still a successful sale.”
The group argued that leasing the public land was a bad deal for the country especially with oil and gas drilling commodities being low while worldwide supplies are high.
Sometime during the COVID-19 pandemic, oil demand plummeted as businesses shut down and the stay-at-home order resulted in people driving less.
When asked about the lease by The Guardian Adam Kolton, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League says that “This lease was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation. After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves, with the state being one of their only bidders.”
Alaska’s state-owned economic development corporation spent $12m for nearly all of the bids for the leases in hope that the oil companies would come around to being interested in the area since all major oil companies ignored the auction. Other than that corporation, two small and lesser-known companies placed bids.
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