Biden offers the largest oil and gas lease sales in U.S. history

Anchored oil rigs in Port Aransas, Texas.

Anchored oil rigs in Port Aransas, Texas.
Photography: Eric Gay (AP)

Addressing world leaders at united nations climate conference in Glasgow earlier this month, President Joe Biden proclaimed this will be a “decisive decade in which we will have the opportunity to prove ourselves” in the climate. Labout a week later the end of that UN meeting, Biden’s administration will hold the largest oil and gas sales in history.

“We have only a short window ahead of us to raise our ambitions and to rise in order to fulfill a task that is rapidly narrowing,” Biden said at the climate conference. talks two weeks ago. “This is a decisive decade in which we have the opportunity to prove ourselves. “

The the scientific consensus is clear to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must complete all new oil and gas exploration by next year. But the lease sale, first devised by the Trump administration, could close up to 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development in the coming decades. According to the federal government analysis, about 1.1 billion barrels of oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be developed as a result of these sales. AAll this fossil fuel, the Center for American Progress calculated, could emit 723 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Drilling leases for sale also include the areas in which they are located chemical waste thrown into the Gulf, adding another layer of pending environmental disaster.

“It’s simply amazing,” said Kristen Monsel, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I don’t know why they’re doing this.”

One of Biden’s first actions in office in January was a break in the federal oil and gas leasing program. It is important that the break should not have been a ban. Rin addition, it was designed as a period for the Department of Home Affairs to assess the lease program and its climate impacts. And there is good reason to doubt the validity of the leasing program. Analyzes show that the oil and gas industry was basically pile up federal leases, using only 23% of the current offshore rents it holds. TThe Trump administration sales attempts 78.1 million hectares in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018 resulted in the sale of only 1% of that public land.

But even though they are basically being introduced lease of unused land and ocean, the oil and gas industry was no that Biden had told him he would no longer be able to access it, even temporarily. To date, there have been a total of four legal disputes, including one filed by industrial trade groups run by the American Petroleum Institute. A group of 14 Republican state prosecutors and governors also challenged the break. (It’s not that the fingerprints of the industry weren’t everywhere after that lawsuit: TThe Center for American Progress has revealed that oil and gas interests have given $ 4.5 million in campaign money to each of these attorneys. and governor’s campaigns.)

The efforts of that lawsuit paid off. In June, a Trump’s judge sided with the states and blocked the break, ruling that Biden needed Congress to approve any rate of lease sales.

This decision may seem to be pushing the administration to the hand. But legal experts they say that does not force Biden’s hand to restart the leasing program. Several environmental groups challenged v. Ocean Management Bureau (BOEM) –which regulates the sale of leases—September, stating that it is Wednesday lease sales rely on improper modeling that does not take climate change into account.

The June decision “certainly does not force BOEM to hold on [this lease sale] illegally and in violation of environmental laws, ”Monsell said. “But that’s exactly what they’re doing here, relying on outdated environmental analyzes despite a wealth of information showing that existing analyzes are terribly inadequate.”

The Department of the Interior will offer three more leased sales, including one in a sensitive Cook Inlet in Alaska, later this year. The way in which the basic laws that regulate the lease sale program give BOEM “broad powers” to give up specific lease sales, Monsel explained. Agency they were able to stop selling leases this year by conducting analyzes to defend their decision not to hold them. With the decision not to hold lease sales, including the one scheduled in the Gulf, there may have been more lawsuits. Bbut “the fear of industry lawsuits is not the courageous leadership we need to address the climate crisis,” Monsell said.

The Biden administration is touted as the most progressive in U.S. history when it comes to climate. Ithe truth is that it is did some good work at home, but its Fossil fuel-friendly diplomacy at a UN meeting, and this lease sale underscores the inevitable fact that the United States is the world’s largest oil and gas producer — and that those in power are choosing to side with pollutants and profits., even while the clock is ticking on the air conditioner.

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Naveen Kumar

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