Biden Announces Plan to Sell ‘Fewest Oil and Gas Lease Sales in History’

Reducing oil and gas lease sales will be in line with the administration’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Biden Announces Plan to Sell ‘Fewest Oil and Gas Lease Sales in History’
President Joe Biden during a news briefing at the White House in Washington on April 26, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Naveen Athrappully

The Biden administration has announced that it will sell only three offshore oil and gas leases over the next five years.

From 2024 to 2029, the Department of the Interior (DOI) says it will engage in “a maximum of three potential oil and gas lease sales” in the Gulf of Mexico region scheduled in 2025, 2027, and 2029, according to a Sept. 29 statement.

No oil and gas lease sales will take place in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Alaskan waters during this period, according to the statement. The three sales represent “the fewest oil and gas lease sales in history,” the department claims.

The two recent leasing plans, both proposed under the Obama administration, included more than 10 lease sales each. Meanwhile, the Trump administration had planned to hold 47 offshore leases from 2022 to 2027.

The DOI proposed the three sales in order to comply with the requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in August 2022, it said.

The law includes a provision stating that significant oil and gas lease sales be made prior to issuing renewable energy rights. The provision was added to the legislation by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in response to the Biden administration delaying and canceling oil and gas lease sales on federal land and waters.

The DOI is prohibited from issuing a wind development lease unless it has offered 60 million acres for offshore oil and gas lease in the previous year—a provision applicable for 10 years.

The three lease sales are the “minimum number” that will allow the agency to continue to expand its offshore wind leasing program through 2030, according to the statement. The Biden administration has set a goal of establishing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of this decade.

The three lease sales for 2024–29 are “significantly narrowed” from the Trump administration’s proposal of 47 lease sales in the United States’ coastal areas, the DOI stated. Limiting the number of oil and gas lease sales will be in line with the Biden administration’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the agency stated.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to building a clean energy future that ensures America’s energy independence,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.

"[The proposed lease sale] sets a course for the Department to support the growing offshore wind industry and protect against the potential for environmental damage and adverse impacts to coastal communities.”

The DOI plan has attracted strong criticism.

“Outrageous. As Americans face soaring gas prices, Biden released the smallest offshore oil program in U.S. history,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a Sept. 29 post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This Administration always puts the climate mob over you and your family.”
In a Sept. 29 statement, Mr. Manchin called the DOI plan a “failure of leadership,” promising to hold the Biden administration “accountable.”

“It’s now clear without a shadow of a doubt that without the IRA, this Administration would have ended federal oil and gas development completely,” he said.

But instead of embracing the provisions of the IRA, “this Administration has once again decided to put their radical political agenda over American energy security, and the American people will pay the price.”

‘Utter Failure’ of a Plan

Following the release of the DOI oil and gas lease plan, Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), called the plan “an utter failure for the country.”
 The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an oil storage facility, is seen in this aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas, on April 27, 2020. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)
The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an oil storage facility, is seen in this aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas, on April 27, 2020. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

“President Biden’s approach to severely limit leasing significantly curtails access to a critical national asset at a time when energy inflation is rampant, the likelihood of a national recession looms, and global efforts are intensifying to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“The White House simply ignores our energy realities, once again limiting U.S. energy production opportunities.”

Regressive policies such as the DOI lease program will harm U.S. residents by putting “upward pressure” on energy prices at the pump, destroy good-paying jobs in Gulf Coast communities, and give the geopolitical benefit of energy production to countries such as Iran, Russia, and China, Mr. Milito said.

Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the Biden administration is opting for “failed energy policies.”

“This restrictive offshore leasing program is the latest tactic in a coordinated strategy to reduce energy production, ultimately weakening America’s energy dominance, limiting consumers’ access to affordable, reliable energy, and compromising our ability to lead on the global stage,” he said.

“For decades, we’ve strived for energy security, and this administration keeps trying to give it away.”

In May 2022, the DOI canceled three of the remaining oil and gas leases scheduled under the ongoing leasing plan, which ends this year. The IRA forced the Biden administration to reverse the decision.

Out of the three, only one remains for now—Lease Sale 261, which was set for Sept. 27. However, Lease Sale 261 has been delayed because of litigation.

The DOI’s reduced lease sale plan is the latest in the Biden administration’s numerous anti-fossil fuel policies.

Since he became president in 2021, President Biden has canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and issued a moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has also revoked Trump-era orders that decreased regulations on federal land while expanding the ability to produce energy domestically.

On Sept. 6, the DOI announced that it would withdraw more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from oil and gas leasing. In addition, seven leases covering 365,000 acres granted to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 2021 would be canceled.