The Trump administration is racing against legal deadlines and a merciless regulatory calendar in its last-ditch effort to sell drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on Jan. 20.
Even if the White House succeeds in clearing those hurdles, it’ll still face the cold reality of the market: funding for Arctic drilling is becoming harder and harder to find. Both oil companies and banks have decided they can no longer tolerate the risk of drilling in one of the fastest-warming places on the globe. Ben Cushing, who leads the nonprofit Sierra Club’s financial advocacy campaign, put the problem simply: “Smart money is staying away from this kind of development in the Arctic.”
“The options are dwindling as banks shy away from the Arctic,” said Kathy Hipple, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Not only because of ESG reasons,” she added, referring to environmental, social, and governance standards for investing, “but because it’s a high-cost, high-risk business.”