Yesterday's Interior Department sale of Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas leases drew modest action, with companies offering roughly $125 million in winning bids (and $139 million in total bids). The chart below shows the companies that submitted the highest total winning offers in Lease Sale 250 and how many blocs they successfully bid on.

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Data: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

One reason it matters: The expectations game. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a major energy conference in Houston this month that the sale would be a "bellwether" for industry interest in new Gulf leases.

The previous Gulf auction in August drew $121 million in high bids, while the one before that — a year ago — drew almost $275 million in high bids.

Context: The sale arrives at a time when the Gulf is competing with onshore U.S. shale and offshore opportunities in other regions, such as Brazil's massive fields.

  • "With about a 60% increase in acreage from August but relatively the same dollar amount and low competition, bidders got a bargain at today's lease sale. Bidding activity focused on Mississippi Canyon where operators were likely drawn to its established infrastructure and lowest cost developments in the Gulf of Mexico," said William Turner, an analyst with the consultancy Wood Mackenzie, in a short note.

The bids were nowhere near the salad days of Gulf lease sales, which have seen several billion dollars in total bids on some occasions over the years. The last billion-dollar sale was in 2013 — when high bids totaled $1.2 billion — while a 2008 sale brought $3.7 billion in high offers.

  • A full list dating back to the 1950s is here.

Yes, but: Via S&P Global Platts, "Sale 250 featured fairly high offers made by Shell for the four tracts offered in the remote Alaminos Canyon area that borders Mexican waters. Shell put down $6.5 million, $3.8 million, $2.1 million and $1.2 million, respectively, for the four blocks, and was the apparent high bidder on all."

  • Their piece also notes "spirited" bidding in the Mississippi Canyon region near the Louisiana coast.

Go deeper: Reuters has a detailed piece on the sale here.

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Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.

Senate passes bill funding government through December

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Where it stands: The legislation will avert a government shutdown before funding expires Wednesday night and before the Nov. 3 election. The House passed the same measure last week by a vote of 359-57 after House Democrats and the Trump administration agreed on the resolution.

  • Both sides agreed early in negotiations that the bill should be a "clean" continuing resolution — meaning each party would only make small changes to existing funding levels so the measure would pass through both chambers quickly, Axios' Alayna Treene reported last week. The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Technology

The age of engineering life begins

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Synthetic biology startups raised some $3 billion through the first half of 2020, up from $1.9 billion for all of 2019, as the field brings the science of engineering to the art of life.

The big picture: Synthetic biologists are gradually learning how to program the code of life the way that computer experts have learned to program machines. If they can succeed — and if the public accepts their work — synthetic biology stands to fundamentally transform how we live.