The Biden administration has suggested an offshore drilling strategy that may result in zero to eleven lease sales. This choice to delay oil and gas production is politically difficult and is likely to enrage both proponents of fossil fuels and those who oppose climate change.
The Interior Department’s strategy was unveiled just one day after the Supreme Court issued a decision severely restricting the ability of the EPA to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change, and as gas prices continue to hover around record highs. These fuel costs are a significant factor in inflation, which has been a top concern for voters ahead of the midterm elections in November.
If the administration’s plan is implemented, up to 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, both of which are active oil and gas production regions, would be permitted. The proposal that would take the place of the five-year offshore drilling plan that expired on Thursday would reserve the authority to cancel such sales if it receives feedback during a 90-day public comment period.
The government is effectively deferring a contentious political choice about new offshore drilling, which he had pledged to ban on federal lands and waters during the 2020 campaign. This is demonstrated by the administration’s range of possibilities. Even while the public comment process is open through the end of September, the Interior may need more time to consider the feedback before announcing its final strategy, a senior administration official said in an interview.
According to the source, “the suggested strategy restricts the discussion to only those regions where there is already established infrastructure and industry.” “We believe this proposal is a chance to let the public meaningfully participate in the ongoing discussion we’re having about how to best satisfy the country’s energy demands and achieve the transition to a clean energy economy,” the plan reads.
According to Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at analytics firm Kpler, high fuel prices have lowered Biden’s favorability ratings and given Republicans a useful tool to use against Democrats who are being pushed by environmental organizations to reduce methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry to combat climate change.
The administration’s alternatives, according to Smith in an interview conducted before the announcement, are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” They face criticism for pursuing fossil fuels if they do. If they don’t, they’ll be held accountable for increasing prices and stifling oil output.
If the administration decides against holding lease auctions, it will mark the first time since the program’s inception in 1980 that the government has declined to offer the seas off the Gulf of Mexico for lease in order to support the extraction of oil. It would also represent a significant political risk for Vice President Joe Biden, who entered office with the intention of leading the United States toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases but has since changed course to advocate for increased oil and gas production as inflation has skyrocketed.
The price of gasoline has decreased from the most recent high of $5.00 per gallon established in mid-June, but it is still high at $4.82 per gallon. Inflation has been identified by Americans as the country’s #1 problem, which has a negative impact on Biden’s approval ratings.
According to Erik Milito, executive director of the business association National Ocean Industries Association, which favors offshore oil and production, sacrificing Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leasing would have terrible effects on our nation for decades.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is the majority Democratic supporter of the oil and gas industry in the Senate, expressed concern that the Interior had even included a choice that would prevent lease sales.
In a news statement, Manchin stated that he was disturbed to learn that “zero” lease sales were even a possibility. “I hope the Administration will ultimately approve a plan that will increase domestic energy production, carried out in the most environmentally friendly manner possible, while also taking the necessary steps to get our offshore leasing program back on track to give the necessary market signals to provide price relief for every American,”
However, if it continues to promote lease sales, environmental groups will undoubtedly accuse Biden of failing to uphold his vow to wean America away from fossil fuels as climate change amplifies more destructive weather patterns across the nation. According to a report released on Friday by energy and environmental analysis company Kayrros, US methane emissions, which decreased in 2020 as drilling paused due to the Covid epidemic, are now expected to increase.
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