Sept 29 (Reuters) – The Biden administration’s plan to cut offshore oil and gas leases drew fire from the fossil fuel industry and environmentalists on Friday, with energy companies saying it will raise the price of gasoline and vegetables saying it undermines efforts to stop global warming.
Criticism from both sides shows the difficulty of Biden’s White House in dealing with US oil extraction policies, as it seeks to balance national energy security with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change. Biden promised on the campaign trail to end the new federal lease, but has been blocked by the courts from doing so, and has been discouraged by rising pump prices that political analysts say hurt his chances of re-election.
Biden’s Interior Department on Friday unveiled a congressionally mandated five-year plan for offshore oil drilling that includes just three sales, all in the Gulf of Mexico — the lowest number in any five-year plan since the government began publishing it in 1980. The record low number was first reported by Reuters on Thursday.
Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil and gas developers, said it would be a “total failure for the country” to raise gas prices, killing jobs on the Gulf Coast and will make the US more dependent on oil imports.
The last five years of offshore leasing programs ranged between 11 and 41 sales, according to the Interior’s US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Environmentalists also criticized the plan.
“We are too far from the climate crisis to commit ourselves to decades of new fossil fuel extraction, especially after the hottest summer in recorded history,” Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen said in a statement.
The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 15% of US crude oil production, according to government data. It can take between four and 10 years between the issuance of an oil production lease, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The Interior Department said it has opted to approve the minimum number of oil lease sales needed to expand the offshore wind program, which is currently tied to fossil fuel leases. under federal law.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark climate change law passed last year, made oil and gas sales a requirement for new offshore wind energy auctions. Biden sees offshore wind power as a key element in his plan to decarbonize the US economy by 2050.
But the American Petroleum Institute, a leading US oil industry trade group, says the US is abandoning its role as a global leader in energy production.
“For decades, we’ve been striving for energy security and this administration continues to try to provide it,” said API President Mike Sommers.
The US Chamber of Commerce and a Gulf Coast senator also criticized the decision.
“This is a slap in the face to American energy workers and a pat on the back to Putin and the dictators of OPEC,” Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said in a statement, referring to President Vladimir Putin at large. oil producer Russia and members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Cassidy, whose home state relies heavily on fossil fuel industries, introduced legislation in July that would require Interior to hold two offshore lease sales each in 2024 and 2025.
The Interior Department’s final plan is a dramatic reduction from an earlier proposal by the Trump administration, made in 2018 and later discarded, that envisioned 47 lease sales, including California and Atlantic.
Interior said the three sales are expected to take place in 2025, 2027 and 2029.
In a sign of the litigious nature of US drilling policy, the Biden administration is set to hold a Congressionally mandated Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease auction this month. But a federal lawsuit to protect an endangered whale prompted a US appeals court to give Interior until November to resume the sale.