Sale of Arctic Leases Draws an Unusual Taker. It May Be the Only One.

“With a deadline looming and weak interest from oil companies, the state of Alaska may step in and buy leases in the hope of reassigning them later. Some analysts saw that as a long shot.”

“After a three-year push by the Trump administration to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling — an effort that culminated in a rush to sell leases before the White House changes hands — in the end the only taker may be the state of Alaska itself.

With a Thursday deadline for submitting bids for 10-year leases on tracts covering more than one million acres of the refuge, there is little indication that oil companies are interested in buying the rights to drill under difficult conditions, to extract more costly fossil fuels for a world that increasingly is seeking to wean itself off them.

Amid the uncertainty, a state-owned economic development corporation voted last week to authorize bidding up to $20 million for some of the leases. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity,” Frank Murkowski, an elder statesman of Alaska politics, told the board of the corporation, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, at a meeting before the vote.”

Henry Fountain reports for the New York Times December 30, 2020.