Oct 2, 2023 - Energy & Environment

New leasing policy shows Biden's delicate balancing act on oil drilling

Illustration of two hands shaking, one of the hands has an oil barrel as a suit sleeve.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There's plenty of fallout from the Biden administration's plan to greatly slow offshore oil and gas leasing.

Catch up fast: The Interior Department plans a maximum of three Gulf of Mexico sales in 2025, 2027 and 2029, a historically low number in the 5-year schedules, it said Friday.

  • Don't forget: a compromise in the 2022 climate law tethers new offshore wind leases to requirements that Interior conduct oil lease auctions.

Between the lines: Research firm ClearView Energy Partners called the plan leaner than they expected, and noted it leaves the option to cancel sales, too.

  • It's a "likely pre-election bid to burnish environmental credentials," they said in a note.

Yes, but: Nonetheless, green groups bashed Interior for planning new oil and gas sales in the first place.

  • Oceana said any fossil leasing "exacerbates the climate catastrophe that is already at our doorstep."
  • Michael Messmer, the group's acting campaign director, said via email that current wind leases are plenty to exceed the White House goal of 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2030.

The other side(s): The American Clean Power Association (ACP), which represents wind developers, said the plan provides "critical windows" for additional wind sales.

  • That will "ensure a pipeline of projects that can meet our clean energy goals," cut emissions and create jobs, ACP Chief Policy Officer Frank Macchiarola tells Axios in a statement.
  • Meanwhile, oil industry groups and Republicans call the plan too restrictive and say it runs afoul of energy security.

What we're watching: Potential lawsuits once the 60-day clock to finalize the plan ends — and how the policy surfaces on the campaign trail.

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