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Biden administration backs Trump-era Alaska oil drilling project plans

The Biden administration on Wednesday defended in the U.S. District Court for Alaska a massive ConocoPhillips oil and gas project approved during the Trump-era, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: President Biden has pledged to move away from fossil fuels. But the project has the backing of officials including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — who's viewed as a potential ally for Biden in his attempts to push through policies in an evenly divided Senate, the NYT notes.


Driving the news: Some tribal leaders and unions also back the project, but environmental groups say the Trump administration didn't consider the effects the Willow drilling project in part of the National Petroleum Reserve would have on "wildlife and climate-change impacts," according to Reuters.

  • A judge to temporarily blocked the project in May after the environmental groups filed a lawsuit.
  • The Biden administration didn't clarify how its stance lined up with its climate policies, but it said in the filing that greenhouse gas emissions considerations and the effects the project would have on "fish, caribou and polar bear habitat" had been sufficiently taken into account when the project was approved, the Times reports.
  • The filing noted that Conoco has "valid lease rights" and can "develop its leases 'subject to reasonable regulation,'" according to the NYT.

What they're saying: An Interior Department spokesperson told Reuters in a statement that the court filing "continues to defend a 2020 Record of Decision for the Willow Project" in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska (NPR-A).

  • "The filing maintains that the decision complied with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) standards in place at the time, and that the plaintiffs did not challenge the Record of Decision within the time limitations associated with environmental review for projects in the NPR-A," the statement added.
  • Representatives for the Interior Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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