TO THE GWICH’ IN individuals, the seaside plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Haven in Alaska is “the spiritual location where life starts”. To energy companies, it is a danger not worth taking.
On January 6th, after 4 decades of contesting whether to permit drilling in the haven, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held an auction for oil leases on the coastal plain. The state of Alaska and 2 small local companies were the only bidders– offering simply $144 m for about half of the more than 1m acres for sale– with the state hoping to discover an oil company to drill in future.
It is a fitting last chapter in Mr Trump’s campaign to unleash drilling on federal lands, characterised by maximum bravura and combined business impact. Companies have actually happily put capital into locations with low costs and ample reserves. Chevron, Occidental and Concho Resources, among others, have purchased federal property in New Mexico, house to part of the abundant Permian shale basin. Joe Biden has stated he would ban new authorizations, triggering firms to protect acreage before he takes office on January …