Biden expected to OK Alaska oil project — a blow to his green base

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President Joe Biden’s allies in the climate movement are bracing for their biggest setback from his administration as he moves closer to approving an Alaskan oil project that would pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as 60 coal-burning power plants.

The administration is expected to approve ConocoPhillips’ plans to build its proposed Willow project on federal land in the Arctic tundra, according to three people at environmental groups who have talked to the White House and Interior Department in recent days about it. But there is no indication yet that Biden himself has signed off on it, and the administration appears to be still trying to decide how big the project would be, these people said.

The White House insisted Friday and Saturday that the administration has made “no final decisions” about the project. But administration officials have touted the importance of oil production in recent months, and people outside the administration said they had been expecting the approval to be announced this past Friday.

Biden pledged to halt new oil and gas development on federal land during his 2020 campaign, and he and Democrats in Congress passed landmark climate legislation last summer aimed at weaning huge swaths of the economy off of fossil fuels. But the surge in oil prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the administration into an awkward embrace of the oil industry, as Biden countered Republican accusations that his policies were to blame for the skyrocketing price at the gas pump that was stoking inflation.

Approving Willow would be just the latest shift by Biden toward the political center as he moves toward a potential reelection bid. He similarly dismayed liberals last week by saying he would not veto a GOP-led repeal of changes to D.C.’s criminal code.