Everything becomes liquid under pressure, including climate promises from ‘greenest president ever’

Everything becomes liquid under pressure, including climate promises from ‘greenest president ever’
Everything becomes liquid under pressure, including climate promises from ‘greenest president ever’ Joe Biden

Oil would never be drilled on federal land, US President vowed during his election campaign in 2020. Now he is giving permission for oil extraction in Alaska to appease voters. Has Biden abandoned his climate ambitions?

Maral Noshad SharifiMarch 17, 20234:00 pm

“I want to turn 30 on an Earth I recognize,” climate activist Elise Joshi cried in front of her 125,000 followers on TikTok on Monday. “Biden has slapped young people in the face. This is the beginning of a movement!” There are countless similar videos circulating on social media this week featuring sad, angry and disappointed American youth. The reason: a new climate decision by the president.

On Monday, Joe Biden gave his go-ahead to ConocoPhilips’ controversial Willow project. The company is allowed to drill at three locations for oil in northwest Alaska, good for about 600 million barrels. The project will create 2,500 jobs, which both Democrats and Republicans in Alaska are eager to get. It can bring the state 16 billion euros.

However, the oil drilling is at odds with Biden’s climate plans, which promised to become the “greenest president ever.” “No more drilling on federal land, period,” he told his audience at a campaign rally in 2020. “Point, point, point.” Now he breaks that promise again. Has Biden finally said goodbye to his climate ambitions?

The driver votes

It’s not that simple, says Paul Bledsoe, an energy expert at American University. “Biden wouldn’t have gotten away with trying to abandon the project.” The Willow Project was approved by Donald Trump in 2020. “If it had come to trial, the government would have lost.”

Yet the legal situation is not the only reason that Biden gave the controversial plan the green light. The president has been caught for a year between his climate ambitions and the war in Ukraine, which is driving up fuel prices. While he hasn’t formally declared his candidacy yet, everything points to his running for a second term as president — and worrying Americans at the pump are an Achilles’ heel.

“Voters care much more about economic issues than climate,” said Sarah Anderson, a political scientist and climate expert at the University of Santa Barbara. Only 3 percent of Americans see climate as the top political issue of all time, according to a February Gallup poll. In the Inflation Reduction Act, the investment of more than 400 billion euros aimed at clean energy, the word “climate” was deliberately left out of the name.

Last year, Biden already promised to trade new permits for drilling in nine US states. This year, he aimed to pump 12.4 million barrels of oil a day — more than any other time in American history.

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An oil pipeline winds through the Alaskan landscape.Image The Washington Post via Getty Im


Of course there are political risks in breaking promises. But whether Biden wakes up to that remains to be seen. “As long as there is no progressive opponent, Biden can continue to move to the center,” says Anderson. “This group is not going to flock to the Republicans.” But progressive youth can choose not to vote in the 2024 presidential election.

The 3 percent of voters who think climate is very important include Gen-Z people like Elise Joshi, but also Democrat Maxwell Frost, who, at 26, is the youngest member of the House of Representatives. This week, Frost said he was “deeply disappointed” in the president. “We deserve a livable future,” he wrote on Twitter.

“In the next year and a half, the president must take the necessary steps to prove that he wants to fight for us,” said Michele Weindling, of the activist group Sunrise Movement. Of all age groups, the president received the most support from the 18 to 24-year-olds in 2020, she wants to say something in return.


Biden has not yet completely lost his climate credit. “There’s disappointment, there’s anger, there’s frustration,” Lori Lodes, director of Climate Power, a Washington-based influential campaign group, told reporters Thursday. The Washington Post. “But what has been achieved in the past year is revolutionary.” She refers to the climate law without the word climate in it.

And while Biden didn’t stop the Willow project, the president did manage to contain it somewhat. The five drilling locations once announced have been reduced to three. To spare nature, he also managed to stop the construction of tens of kilometers of roads and oil pipelines in Alaska.

Still, opponents fear that as a result of this plan, the US will remain dependent on fossil fuels for another thirty years. Online petitions have been signed by more than four million opponents. On Tuesday and Wednesday, environmental organizations filed lawsuits against the government’s decision, which would go against climate agreements. “They have given the green light to a carbon bomb,” said one of the prosecutors.

The article is in Dutch

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