In a blow to the outgoing administration’s efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel development, only half of the oil and gas leases offered for sale Wednesday received bids, and all but two of those came from the state of Alaska itself.
Only two companies, neither of them major oil producers, made bids to acquire 10-year rights to explore and drill for oil on two tracts totaling about 75,000 acres. A state-owned economic development corporation, offering the minimum of $25 an acre, was the sole bidder on the other tracts, totaling about half a million acres. The rights to another 400,000 acres remained unsold.
Once billed as a potential windfall that, over time, could bring in close to a billion dollars for the federal Treasury, in all the sale netted less than $15 million, with half of that going to the state.
Both the financial results, and the lack of interest from major companies, are quite likely a disappointment to the administration, and to Alaska officials who have long favored oil development for the jobs and revenue it could bring.