Despite approving a scaled-down Willow Oil Project on Alaska’s North Slope last year, President Joe Biden is renewing his efforts to prove his climate bona fides to environmentalists by severely limiting the development of traditional forms of energy. The Fall 2023 Unified Agenda, released in December, shows his administration is determined to tip the scales away from these traditional forms of energy as far as possible and toward wind and solar generation.  

Here is a taste of the 3,600 new regulations due in 2024. The administration is punishing my home state of Alaska directly with a proposed rule to cripple development on more than 40% of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The rule would “establish an outright prohibition” on new oil and gas leases across 10.6 million acres of the total 23 million acres. 

NPR-A was set aside by President Warren Harding in 1923 explicitly for oil production in the event of an emergency. How can it meet emergency needs if drilling is no longer allowed? With conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East and a drained Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we should keep our eyes peeled for a true emergency.

At the same time that the Biden administration is cracking down on oil and gas, his Interior Department announced that by April, it will award a steep discount to wind and solar exploration on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management — to the tune of 80% on a major component of one type of fee — and completely waive others. The agency may come to an agreement with developers on fees based on nebulous factors such as “economic hardship” and accept noncompetitive bids without a full auction process when it is deemed necessary for the “public interest.” 

In plain language: Renewable projects get bargain pricing, and the Bureau of Land Management may issue leases to whomever it wants at whatever price it concludes is necessary to “promote the greatest use of solar and wind energy resources.” Contrast this with another proposed rule that increases the value of bonding requirements more than tenfold and royalties due from oil and gas leases. Cutting wind and solar fees while putting undue pressure on oil and gas companies only ensures that the public is deprived of the full value of its public lands.

The administration’s “all or nothing” approach to green energy initiatives unnecessarily pits oil and gas against wind and solar. This misguided thinking fails to recognize the benefits of cheap, reliable energy — from any source. Rather than imposing top-down mandates on the type of energy that will be consumed, we should tailor energy production to the needs of local communities and seek to expand the options available. For instance, the state of Alaska has loosened siting requirements for nuclear microreactors. These small reactors could provide safe, cheap, and reliable energy independent of existing power grids and loosen rural communities’ dependence on heating oil in subarctic temperatures.

The Bureau of Land Management Conservation and Landscape Health rule, which would rewrite how the agency balances the multiple uses of public lands to achieve sustained yield, is slated to be finalized this winter. That rule would also set aside land for “mitigation or restoration,” activities within conservation leases. That might seem like a good thing, and it could be, so long as market forces, rather than politics, dictate the price and availability of leases. Care to guess how likely that is under a 2025 Biden administration?

A true all-of-the-above approach to energy consumption in the U.S. would recognize that limited government, technical innovation, and individual choices can protect the environment just as well, if not better, than heavy-handed government solutions. It’s unfortunate that the Biden administration prefers to tip the regulatory scale in favor of “zero-emissions” wind and solar power.