The Department of Interior has nixed three high-profile oil and natural gas lease sales in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, infuriating the energy sector and lawmakers who accuse President Biden of paying lip service to Americans upset about sky-high prices at the pump.
Despite calls for the administration to promote more domestic energy production, Interior cited a lack of interest and delays from court rulings as the reason to call off the lease sales for drilling in federal waters.
“President Biden is continuing his war on American energy by canceling these leases and making it harder for us to produce energy at home,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and ranking member of the House Energy Committee.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, accused the administration of “actively making high gas prices worse.”
“When we need to unleash American energy production, the Biden administration kills opportunities at every turn,” he said. “The administration’s actions over the past year and a half have been an all-out assault on American energy, Louisiana jobs, and families’ pocketbooks.”
President Biden has faced a balancing act of trying to appease both environmentalists who want him to do more on climate change and voters who are frustrated with high inflation.
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Gas prices continued to reach new highs Thursday, with the national average at $4.42 per gallon, according to AAA.
The leases offered potential drilling on over 1 million acres in the Cook Inlet in Alaska. It was the fourth time Interior scrapped lease sales in the area. One of the Gulf of Mexico sales, Lease Sale 257, would have marked the largest offshore deal in U.S. history.
“While some in the Administration have called for more domestic production, this action sends exactly the wrong signal to producers and markets and is contrary to that goal,” said Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute. “This action also won’t advance climate goals since U.S. oil and natural gas would be displacing overseas fuels that typically have higher emissions.”
Energy in Depth, part of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, noted that the White House just over a month ago said, “the fact is that there is nothing standing in the way of domestic oil production.”
“Seems contradictory, right?” said Energy in Depth spokesperson William Allison.
Power the Future, which represents the industry, labeled the Alaska cancellation as “just another example of eco-extremism run amok.”
For environmental and left-leaning groups, however, the cancellations were welcome news.
They argued that new lease sales would not result in any near-term production and would be against Mr. Biden’s climate agenda. They also noted that oil and natural gas companies are sitting on millions of unused acres set aside for drilling, an argument that the industry has rebutted by saying it is impossible to know which areas will bear results and is costly for new exploration.
“Industry wants the public to think that more offshore leasing is essential right now. That’s bonkers,” said Anne Hawke, a senior press secretary for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “New leases would not yield more supply for at least a decade, which won’t help consumers at the pump this year.”
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) said offshore drilling “is a dirty and dangerous business that threatens coastal communities, economies and marine life.”
“Selling new offshore leases that won’t produce oil for years is not a solution to today’s gas prices, but it would lock in new infrastructure that is incompatible with our moral responsibility to leave a habitable planet for our kids,” LCV Program Director Alex Taurel said.