The Biden administration has announced plans to lease a limited number of spots in the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies for drilling over the next five years. The move has faced backlash from Republicans, the fossil fuel industry, and climate activists alike. The government stated that oil and gas companies would only be permitted to drill in three new areas in the Gulf between 2024 and 2029, the fewest number of lease sales offered in decades. This move comes as President Biden seeks to prioritize clean energy and reduce fossil fuel pollution contributing to climate change.
The plan is significant as it sets the course for offshore drilling for the next five years and determines the actions of future administrations. The oil industry warned that limiting drilling opportunities would lead to higher gas prices and increased oil imports from countries with lax environmental standards. While limiting leases may not have an immediate effect on gas prices, energy analysts believe it could have long-term consequences. Climate advocates, on the other hand, argue that the administration should completely end new leasing to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.
President Biden had promised “no new drilling, period” on public lands and federal waters during his campaign. However, he has been compelled by courts or Congress to approve new drilling on multiple occasions. Emissions from burning fossil fuels extracted from federal lands and waters contribute to nearly 25% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. The latest plan aligns with President Biden’s goal of reducing emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources. The three areas in the Gulf of Mexico selected for leasing are where oil and gas facilities already exist.
The new five-year plan is expected to face legal challenges from Republicans and oil industry leaders. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has made offshore wind development a priority and plans to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. It has already approved four commercial-scale offshore wind projects and expects to review at least 16 more projects by 2025, which would generate over 27 gigawatts of electricity. Environmental groups argue that Gulf communities will continue to face health impacts from oil and gas drilling, refineries, and related facilities, highlighting the need for a transition to cleaner energy sources.