Biden Administration Sells Large Oil and Gas Leases Days After Promising to Fight Climate Change

Days after the COP26 summit, the Biden administration sold large oil and gas leases, it has emerged. The sale, one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history, came after President Joe Biden told world leaders in the global climate change conference that his administration is doing everything to slow down climate change. He had noted that the US plans to cut back carbon emissions by 50 percent-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

According to The Guardian, the US government put 80 Million acres of the Gulf of Mexico on lease for oil and gas drilling on Wednesday, November 17. As many as 33 energy companies of the likes of Exxon Mobil Corp placed bids on a total of 1.7 million acres. The companies will pay around $192 million to drill in the water, along with royalties for the extraction.

The lease did not seem to go well with the environmentalists. An attorney at Earthjustice, Drew Caputo, even sued to stop the sale and called it disappointing. He further noted that the most significant action that the US administration has taken on oil and gas development goes in the wrong direction. Environmental activists also termed the move reckless, adding that it could possibly lock in years, and potentially decades of emissions responsible for the heating of the planet.

Workers from ScanDrill Ltd clamp together pieces of pipe while drilling an oil well for Jagged Peak Energy Inc near Fort Stockton, Texas.
Representational image Reuters

Greenhouse gas emissions

According to the Center of Biological Diversity, an NGO based in Arizona, the lease sale could potentially emit more than 516 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 130 coal-fired power plants or 112 million cars. The Department of the Interior estimated that around 1.12 billion barrels of oil and 4.2 trillion cubic feet of gas are available for extraction.

The Biden administration didn't have an option

The Biden administration, on the other hand, said that they didn't have much of an option. President Biden had put a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters soon after acquiring office in wake of the climate change. About a dozen Republican-led states had filed a lawsuit over the pause at that time.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled in favor of those states and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction. The Biden administration has appealed that decision but agreed to remove the ban and resume the lease sales meanwhile. Further lease sales are scheduled in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and other Western states early next year. Environmental organizations and activists, however, argue the Biden administration could have pressed more to halt the sale if they were serious about climate change issues.