Biden sells offshore oil drilling rights, defying environmentalists

The Biden administration is planning to sell offshore oil drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five years, despite objections from environmentalists. The Interior Department has ruled out a plan that would completely block auctions through late 2028. Oil industry advocates argue that a robust sale schedule is necessary to ensure steady development and production in the Gulf of Mexico, which currently provides around 15% of US crude output. However, environmentalists believe that new leasing is incompatible with the urgent need to decarbonize and would prolong oil activity for decades.

The decision to move forward with offshore oil leasing was influenced by the Inflation Reduction Act provision, which requires the Interior Department to hold an oil lease sale of at least 60 million acres before issuing new offshore wind leases. This provision, developed by Senator Joe Manchin, aims to connect offshore oil and gas leasing with renewable energy leasing. The release of the plan comes at a time when crude stockpiles are dwindling and oil futures are approaching $100 a barrel. However, it will take years for any new leases to lead to exploratory drilling and crude production.

The plan will be published on Friday, and Congress will have 60 days to review it and propose changes. While a future administration could seek to alter the plan, the blueprint itself takes years to develop, making quick pivots unlikely. The previous Biden administration proposal left the possibility for up to 11 auctions of offshore oil and gas leases, with 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The previous Obama-era plan, which expired in June 2022, also included 11 sales.

It is important to note that no comments have been provided by the White House or the Interior Department regarding this decision at this time. The plan's publication will mark the beginning of the review process and the potential for legislative changes.


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