The Biden administration on Friday said that it would offer up to 11 leases for oil and gas offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet under its five-year offshore drilling plan.
Over the next five years, the government could complete up to 11 deals to sell drilling rights, or none at all, once a final decision is made, according to NPR.
“President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy. Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to … provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing,″ Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.
The U.S. Department of the Interior oversees the nation’s natural resources, including fossil fuel deposits and drilling projects on federal land and waters.
Federal law mandates that the government auction off drilling rights for oil and gas only in five-year plans, according to Bloomberg. The Biden administration’s Friday proposal came after the expiry of the current five-year plan. According to Bloomberg, it could take several months of public comment and reviews for the proposal to be finalized.
The Biden administration’s proposal has upset advocates for increasing fossil fuel production and environmentalists both.
Environmentalists have seen the administration’s proposal as backing away from President Joe Biden’s commitment to fighting climate change.
“President Biden campaigned on climate leadership, but he seems poised to let us down at the worst possible moment,” Center for Biological Diversity senior oceans campaigner Brady Bradshaw told the Wall Street Journal.
“The reckless approval of yet more offshore drilling would mean more oil spills, more dead wildlife and more polluted communities,” Bradshaw added.
Since his time campaigning for the presidency in 2020, Biden pledged to make climate change a top issue, promising to bring forth a “Clean Energy Revolution” in the country.
In December 2021, Biden signed an executive order announcing an ambitious climate plan to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero in 2050.
However, as gas prices in the country skyrocket amid record-high inflation and the war in Ukraine, Biden has faced political pressure to tame his climate aspirations, particularly vis-a-vis fossil fuels, by raising U.S. production.
According to AAA, the national average price for gas stood at $4.822 as of Saturday, $1.696 higher than the price a year ago.
Some proponents for raising production to counter rising prices include Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. In a Friday statement, Manchin said he was unhappy that the Biden administration had an option of selling no leases in its five-year plan.
“I am disappointed to see that ‘zero’ lease sales is even an option on the table,” Manchin said Friday, according to Bloomberg. “There is already more than enough flexibility in the program to adjust sales later, which the administration has previously taken advantage of to cancel three sales earlier this year.”
“Our allies across the free world are in desperate need of American oil and gas,” Manchin said, according to the Journal.
“At a time when demand is outpacing supply and geopolitical tensions continue overseas, policymakers should be doing everything they can to encourage the development of our nation’s energy resources — not restricting access to the affordable, reliable energy needed here in the U.S. and around the world,” American Petroleum Institute Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics, and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola told The Washington Post.
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