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SEI’s Michael Lazarus to New York Times: US faces ‘contradiction’ between fossil fuel extraction and climate goals

Climate activists decried the Biden Administration’s March 2023 approval of an $8 billion oil and gas extraction project on Alaska’s North Slope.

But, as The New York Times points out, the project makes up a small fraction of the continued oil and gas expansion that is occurring worldwide, let alone in the US.

NYT spoke to SEI’s US Centre Director Michael Lazarus about what this means for the climate targets required to curb global warming.

Published on 6 April 2023
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Lynsi Burton /

Oil well in frozen swath of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, before a twilight sky

Photo: Danny Lehman / Getty Images.

While the US approval of a large oil and gas extraction project on Alaska’s ecologically sensitive North Slope left climate advocates reeling, the long-sought ConocoPhillips endeavour represents only a fraction of the hundreds of new oil and gas drilling projects approved worldwide in the last year, marking a fossil fuel rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

The New York Times illustrated the fossil fuel industry’s recent surge against the backdrop of an increasingly dire picture of the world’s climate future.

A lot of this build-out is poised to come on board toward the end of this decade, when we really need to be on a declining path away from fossil fuels.

Michael Lazarus, Centre Director, SEI US

The trillions in spending on fossil fuel projects indicate that extraction will continue to proliferate throughout this decade, while fossil fuel companies are scaling back their ambition to reduce production and invest in renewable energy.

“Oil and gas companies are essentially banking on [fossil fuel] demand remaining as high then as it is now,” said Michael Lazarus, Centre Director at SEI US.

And, just as the US is making historic investments in curbing climate change, it has also achieved the distinction of being the world’s largest oil and gas producer, Lazarus added.

“All signs are that Washington is intent on retaining that position,” he said. “Is that showing climate leadership? There is a fundamental contradiction there that has to be pointed out.”



Michael Lazarus
Michael Lazarus

Senior Scientist


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