US president Donald Trump relaxed restrictions for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in April 2018, in an effort to appease fossil fuel interests. This act of corporate favoritism was deceptively hidden under the “National Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” giving citizens of surrounding areas no opportunity to voice opposition until after the change in policy regarding leasing for drilling in ANWR.
The move came after Russia’s Vladimir Putin announced plans to start drilling in the Arctic. After sanctions on Russian oil oligarchs in 2016, US oil companies have been wary to invest in Russian mining, and now put more of their resources into developing new oil mining in places like Alaska. Competition among oil companies may prompt both countries to further open up protected areas for mining, but so far, the move, along with sanctions against Russia, has caused companies like ExxonMobil to pull out of major Russian oil initiatives to explore new possibilities in the Arctic.
Alaskans, Canadians, and human rights organizations are fighting to get their voices heard and express the initiative’s societal and environmental impacts. The protected areas are home to species such as polar bears, caribou, and golden eagles, whose habitats and food chains could easily be destroyed by an oil spill. These animals also serve as food sources for indigenous Alaskans, who are among the most vulnerable and commonly exploited people.
Despite the story’s significant implications, corporate media has not given it the coverage it deserves. Different corporate media outlets have taken partisan viewpoints on the oil amendments, yet have failed to properly recognize the accelerated processes, pandering to corporations, and geopolitical factors, as well as environmental and human costs. Even Emily Atkins’ New Republic article that purports to address environmental concerns barely mentioned the matter in any significant detail.
Source: Emily Atkin, “Trump, Putin, and the Race for Arctic Oil,” The New Republic, April 25, 2018, https://newrepublic.com/article/148095/trump-putin-race-arctic-oil.
Student Researcher: Matthew Clagett (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)