The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Friday that it will resume selling oil and gas leases on federal lands, despite US President Joe Biden’s campaign-trail promise to end the practice. This is an attempt to boost domestic fuel supplies at a time where energy prices have soared to record levels in the US, and a late response to a court ruling from 2021.
BLM offers only 144,000 acres on government land available for lease. This is 80% more than was initially estimated by the agency. Additionally, it will raise drilling royalties by 12.5% to 18.75%. This is the first increase of this kind in decades.
This move is in accordance with the June 2021 ruling by the US District Court of the Southern District of Louisiana that ordered the government to resume the granting of leases on federal land. The exact locations of the leases won’t be known until Monday when they go up for auction by the BLM. However, the following nine states will have them: Alabama, Colorado and Montana, Nevada. New Mexico. North Dakota. Oklahoma. Utah.
The timing of the move appears to be aimed at bringing down the price of gasoline, which shot up to record high levels in response to the US and Europe’s heavy-handed sanctioning of Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Experts have said that it could take up to a year for any new drilling to produce sufficient fuel supply, rendering any chance of lower gasoline prices in the next election somewhat bleak.
Biden was criticized by the oil industry for announcing mixed messages about energy policy. “The administration begged for oil from other countries, and blamed American energy producers.,” Independent Petroleum Association of America COO Jeffrey Eshelman said in a statement on Friday. “It announces, now, a holiday announcement under pressure. A lease sale is announced with significant royalty increases, which will increase uncertainty in drilling plans over the years..”
The executive director of the American Petroleum Institute of Colorado, Lynn Granger, agreed, accusing the Biden administration of “Add[ing]There are new obstacles to increasing energy production. Some of these barriers can be removed.”
He has angered not only the energy lobby but also progressives in his own party who called him out for breaking an election promise to cease drilling for oil on federal lands. “Period. No drilling more on federal lands. Period. Period.,” was his pledge to voters in February 2020, which quickly gave way to the approval of more drilling permits in 2021 than his predecessor, Donald Trump did in his entire first year in office, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
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The official opening of federal lands to drilling has left green campaigners disillusioned with the lack of prioritization of planet preservation by the administration. Collin Rees, US program manager at Oil Change International, called the decision “an ugly betrayal of Joe Biden’s campaign promises and his administration’s rhetoric on environmental justice and climate action” in a statement issued by climate groups on Friday, while climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians Jeremy Nichols accused the administration of “Talk[ing]A great talk about climate action” while being “In bed with the oil-and-gas industry.”
Oil giants Shell, Chevron, BP, and Exxon have cashed in handsomely under the Biden administration, raking in over $75.5 billion in profits in 2021, according to Accountable.US, and the companies have been making record profits as Western sanctions against Russia drive up prices at the pump.
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