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Source: Obama To Block New Arctic Drilling

| by Nik Bonopartis

President Barack Obama may be closing in on the twilight of his presidency, but he's still trying to influence policy.

Before he leaves office, Obama intends to release an offshore oil and natural gas "plan" that would block new drilling leases in an American-owned region of the Arctic Ocean through 2022, The Hill reported, citing anonymous sources within the administration.

The president has been working with the Department of the Interior to impose the drilling ban at the behest of environmentalists, who are concerned about drilling's impact on the climate and potential oil spills, the report said.

But Obama plans to put the ban in place using "a rarely used legislative provision," according to The Hill, which would make it easy for President-elect Donald Trump to reverse the ban when he assumes office.

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Unlike the executive orders Obama has used in the past, the five-year Arctic drilling ban would have to be approved by legislators, according to a report in Quartz, which calls the ban "a largely symbolic move."

While the U.S. Geological Survey says there's roughly 27 billion barrels of oil underneath the U.S.-owned portion of the Arctic Ocean, there have never been full-scale drilling operations in that region. The Hill report notes that Royal Dutch Shell explored the possibility by setting up test wells in the summer of 2015, but ultimately decided the yield in oil was not worth the considerable expense of drilling in the Arctic.

Shell spent $7 billion on probing for oil reserves and assessing the costs and risks of drilling in the Arctic before pulling out over the costs and risks, a move applauded by environmentalists.

And earlier in 2016, some of the world's largest oil companies -- including Shell -- relinquished their rights to drill in the Arctic, pulling out of the region after spending $2.5 billion on drilling rights. Part of the rationale at the time, according to reports, was the low cost of crude oil versus the expense of drilling in the Arctic.

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"Arctic exploration has been put back several years, given the low oil price environment, the significant cost involved in exploration and the environmental risks that it entails," Peter Kiernan, an energy analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, told Bloomberg News.

Sources: The Hill, Bloomberg, Quartz, Reuters / Photo credit: Chas Redmond/Wikimedia Commons

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