Biden administration cancels Alaska oil and gas lease sale

Biden administration cancels Alaska oil and gas lease sale

The Interior Department is currently awaiting the cancellation of one of the most prominent oil and gas lease opportunities. This decision stops the possibility of drilling for oil on more than 1 million acres in Cook Inlet, Alaska. It comes at a difficult political moment when gas prices are reaching new highs.

In a first statement to CBS News, the Department of the Interior stated that there was “lack of interest from the industry in leasing in the area” and decided not to proceed with the Cook Inlet lease sales. Two leases in the Gulf of Mexico region were also stopped by the department due to “conflicting court decisions that impacted work on these proposed leasing sales.” “

Federal law requires that the Department of the Interior maintain a five-year lease plan for auctioning offshore leases. These lease sales could be completed by the administration until the expiration of the current five year plan, which was due to expire next month.

The sun sets behind an oil drilling rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
The sun sets behind an oil drilling rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on March 17, 2011.

Lucas Jackson / REUTERS


Until now, the White House had remained silent about the massive Alaska lease. The White House would cancel the sale to honor the political promises President Joe Biden made about halting global warming. In the face of rising prices at the pumps, those promises have become a political problem.

” They don’t want the Republicans to get hit in light of high gas prices,” an environmental advocate told CBS News. He spoke on the subject under the condition that he could not be identified due to the sensitive nature of the topic. They’re being killed by attacks based upon inflation. High gas prices are the most obvious sign of inflation. “

The delicate political situation was made evident when a high-ranking environmental official copied a CBS News reporter in an email. Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor, wrote that the Cook Inlet sale had been canceled. It is not going to proceed. “

Almost immediately, another White House official intervened to declare that McCarthy had gotten ahead of herself. Officials from the Interior Department said that no final decision had been made. The department made its announcement on Wednesday as time was running out.

Frank Macchairola is a top American Petroleum Institute official. This trade association represents the largest oil and natural gas industry in the country and called the cancellation of Cook Inlet’s lease “another example” of the administration’s lackluster commitment to American oil and gas development. “

“The President spoke about the need to increase supplies in the market, but his government has not taken action to match that rhetoric,” Macchairola stated, adding that it would not play well politically. “

” In the current price environment, there are both political and practical consequences to stopping oil and gas development,” he stated.

On Wednesday the national average price for regular gas reached a record $4. 40, according to AAA. The decision was welcomed by environmental groups. The Alaska offshore lease arrangement would have opened drilling opportunities over a span of more than 1 million acres for 40 or more years of production. The new activity would have led to new underwater pipelines and platforms in the environmentally-sensitive area.

Drew Caputo is the vice president of litigation for land, wildlife, and oceans at Earthjustice. He said that it would take more than a decade before these leases could have an impact on gas prices.

“It is good for the climate because it can’t support new oil and gas development,” Caputo stated. It’s good news for Cook Inlet, as offshore drilling can be dangerous and disruptive. It’s also good for Cook Inlet residents, including the native people who love the inlet as it is. It’s a great thing. “

However, any decision that is in the interest of oil and gas requires political compromises. According to a recent CBS News poll, Mr. Biden’s approval rating is lowest when it comes to the economy and inflation, with 69% of those surveyed disapproving of his handling of inflation. Sixty-five per cent of respondents stated that they believed President Obama could do more to lower gas prices.

American Petroleum Institute senior Vice President Frank Macchiarola stated in a statement that “Unfortunately this is becoming a trend – the administration talks of the need for more supply but then acts to limit it. We urge the administration to immediately implement a five-year federal program for federal offshore leasing. This is in light of increasing geopolitical volatility and rising energy prices. “

But, environmentalists argue that the climate issue is too important for political battles.

” Scientists tell us that the time to transition from fossil fuel energy is now, not in years,” Caputo stated. “It’s today. Offshore oil leasing must be ended. “

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