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India should keep election politics out of energy policy

The effect is amplified in an election year. That resulted in pump prices hitting all-time highs in rupee terms in Indian cities of 91.20 rupees ($1.22) per liter for petrol and 80.10 rupees per liter for diesel though international crude prices had only touched a four-year peak. The central government finally caved in to public and political pressure in early October, whittling down the excise tax on petrol and diesel by 1.50 rupees (2 cents) per liter from 19.48 rupees and 15.33 rupees per liter respectively. The country's public-sector refiners were asked to cut prices by another 1 rupee per liter, out of their pockets. As the pre-election political rhetoric in India rises in the coming months, it will be important for the ruling BJP government as well as the Congress, the main opposition party, to avoid engaging in oil price populism. But managing the country's growing crude imports and foreign exchange outflows as well as domestic fuel pricing policies is only a facet of a comprehensive energy strategy India needs, not just for the next few months or years, but decades. The current government earned respect within the country and internationally by opening a channel of communication with OPEC leaders and the Middle Eastern oil producers, from whom India gets the bulk of its crude needs, as crude prices raced up over the second and third quarter of 2018. As the world's third largest oil consumer and crude importer spoke, OPEC listened. A string of energy policy reforms initiated or accelerated by the Modi government will need to be sustained, irrespective of which political party or coalition takes over after the election. These include India's push for cleaner fuel rules to reduce harmful vehicular emissions, full deregulation of oil product prices, a boost in production and consumption of biofuels, ambitious plans to raise renewable energy's share in the power sector and lift electric vehicle sales targets.
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Partisan politics over wise energy policy

The largest expanse of pristine wilderness in the United States, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is at risk of becoming a staging ground for heavy machinery, with oil drilling projects threatening to displace and damage wildlife and natural ecosystems. A rider slipped into Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 lifted a decades-long bi-partisan ban on oil and gas leasing in ANWR, marking one the most egregious examples of the Trump administration’s short-sighted focus on so-called “energy dominance” over rational policy. The new legislation directs the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold two lease sales, of not fewer than 400,000 acres each, within the Coastal Plain of the Refuge within 10 years. For decades, ANWR has been off limits to oil and gas development. In 1980, Congress expanded the area to almost 19 million acres and gave it permanent protection as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At the time, Congress set aside a 1.5 million-acre expanse known as the Coastal Plain, prohibiting any oil and gas development there unless authorized by an act of Congress. It is designated as a critical habitat for polar bears, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, which concentrate their dens within the Coastal Plain. Adding to the directive’s irrationality, the United States does not need this oil and gas. The results of the midterm election afford a chance for Congress to promote rational, responsible management of our public lands by rescinding the rider and restoring the refuge as protected wilderness. Jayni Hein is the policy director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, where she also teaches natural resources law and policy.