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President Joe Biden is trying to pull a fast one. His approval of the Willow oil drilling project on Alaska's North Slope runs contrary to everything he has promised Americans — and the world — about protecting the environment, confronting climate change and reducing America's dependence on fossil fuels. No matter how he rationalizes it, this is hypocrisy, and whether hypocrisy arises on the left or right, we have to call it out where we see it.
Approving the ConocoPhillips drilling project in the fragile Alaskan wilderness is a cold political calculation on Biden's part. If he were to reject the 150,000-barrel-per-day project, Republican presidential candidates would certainly use it to blame him and other Democrats for high gasoline prices — conveniently ignoring the post-pandemic recovery and Russia's invasion of Ukraine as, by far, the primary culprits for higher pump prices.
Environmentally conscious Democrats are livid that Biden is proceeding with the Alaska project. The president obviously feels he could fend off any challenge from the left ahead of his expected re-election bid in 2024, and even if hard feelings persist among climate-change activists in the general election, the left would rally to his support because the GOP alternative would be far worse.
The political equation seems to work in his favor, but that doesn't mean he should get a free pass for hypocrisy. His campaign website is replete with dire scenarios and urgent calls for environmental action, asserting that "there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world." The Whitehouse.gov website brims with bold statements about his commitment to fight global warming.
Biden left it to White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre to stumble through an explanation of his rationale. Asked last Thursday about the heat Biden is taking from environmentalists, Jean-Pierre responded: "Look, the president kept his word when he — when he can — where he can by law. Right? That is important to note." She regrouped, explaining that ConocoPhillips had leasing rights that tied the president's hands.
"And so I'll — I'll leave it there," she said. "But, again, the president is delivering the most aggressive climate agenda in the U.S. history."
The problem with climate change is that there will never be a politically convenient, consequence-free time for action. There will always be moments when a little drilling project here, or a pipeline plan over there, won't seem like such a big deal. But they all add up. The Willow oil will produce the equivalent of 263 million tons of greenhouse gases over the project's 30-year life — about what 1.7 million passenger cars would emit over the same time period, the Associated Press reports.
Republicans are going to attack Biden's oil policies anyway. But now he'll justifiably face eye-rolling skepticism even on the left when he claims to have "the most aggressive climate agenda" in U.S. history.