Alaska oil drilling protesters disrupt White House climate adviser appearance

Daily media briefing at the White House in Washington
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Protesters criticizing President Joseph Biden's approval of an oil drilling project in Alaska on Monday blocked an administration official from delivering a speech about U.S. climate leadership.

Ali Zaidi, White House climate adviser, was unable to address the event on the "Future of U.S. Climate & Energy Leadership" at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A dozen protesters holding a sign saying "End Fossil Fuels" chanted: "Keep your promise, no new drilling" for several minutes, preventing Zaidi from starting his remarks.

They criticized Biden for breaking a campaign promise to end new drilling on federal land, including the recent decision to approve a scaled-back version of ConocoPhillips' $7 billion oil and gas drilling Willow project in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve.

ConocoPhillips has been a donor to CSIS.

Protesters believe the Willow decision may overshadow Biden's other climate achievements. The administration has been touting climate investments stemming from its signature climate law called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)and its bipartisan infrastructure law.

Zaidi engaged with the protesters for a few minutes, and highlighted the administration's passage of IRA, which he said would create clean energy jobs in parts of the country that have produced fossil fuels, such as Appalachia.

Reilly Haught, a 23-year-old protestor from West Virginia, told Reuters after the event that the Willow decision and others approving drilling on federal land undermine the climate benefits of the IRA by unleashing more greenhouse gas emissions.

"At the end of the day nobody in a position of power seems to be accepting the reality and the urgency of this moment. And that's what we wanted to share with him. We just can't go on with business as usual with only the people in suits having these important conversations," she said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)