As crude oil approaches $100 a barrel amid turmoil in the Middle East, the Biden administration continues its war on fossil fuels by hamstringing federal offshore drilling leases to the bare minimum required by law. Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and other adversarial oil producers are the only winners of such a nonsensical decision, while the biggest loser may be America’s energy security.
The Interior Department’s five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing includes a mere three auctions in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five years — by far the lowest since World War II. In comparison, the Trump administration proposed a plan in 2018 for 47 lease sales, located in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Alaska. Even the Obama administration held two auctions most years.
After the plan was announced, Sen. Murkowski, R-Alaska, rightly pointed out, “The Biden administration’s long-delayed five-year plan for offshore oil and gas has no lease sales in Alaska waters – even though they acknowledge that will result in higher energy prices and higher emissions.”
This decision is not surprising given the president’s campaign promise to fully ban new oil and gas leases on public lands. President Biden has consistently bowed to radical environmental groups that want to ban all fossil fuels, and this decision was a clear signal that he’s trying his best to comply with their demands after courts rejected prior attempts.
In fact, the Biden administration was obligated by law to offer this bare minimum as a prerequisite for holding offshore wind auctions – a deal Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., negotiated before signing off on the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”). Manchin didn’t mince words in response to this newest development:
“To be clear – three lease sales is more than the zero we would have gotten had it not been for the IRA. But it makes no sense at all to actively be limiting our energy production while our adversaries are weaponizing energy around the world. This is a failure of leadership, and I will continue to do everything in my power to hold this Administration accountable.”
While Interior Secretary Haaland boasted about the plan being the “smallest number of oil and gas lease sales in history,” she had nothing to say about the fate of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (“LWCF”), which is fully funded from offshore oil and gas leasing.
Since Congress created the LWCF in 1965, it has provided $5.2 billion for roughly 45,000 conservation projects across the country. It funds everything from maintaining national parks to local trails to wildlife refuges. Still, the LWCF estimates a backlog of conservation projects totaling upwards of $57 billion. A recent study estimated that if no lease sales occurred over the next five years, we’d expect LWCF funding to decrease by 28 percent by 2036. As a result, we should expect the backlogs to keep piling up.
Draining LWCF funding will be catastrophic to our public lands, yet “environmental” organizations are adamant we cancel its funding source. I’m not surprised, frankly. Opposition groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Just Stop Oil have long proven their dogmatism toward their preferred technologies blinds them from actually caring about the planet.
Covering large swaths of the Mojave desert with solar panels is more important than the rich habitat and Indigenous sites which occupy them. But if there’s an opportunity to mine uranium or drill for oil, Biden’s Interior Department will squash it and green NGOs will applaud.
Just last year, President Biden urged oil companies to drill more. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm correctly asserted that it’s “not a binary choice” between increasing reliable energy supply to global markets and deploying new clean energy. So American oil and gas stepped up and delivered when the world needed it.
Now is not the time to stop.