The Biden administration has announced that it will only approve three offshore oil and gas lease sales through 2029, making it the smallest offshore oil drilling plan in history. The decision is a result of the administration’s efforts to comply with limits set by a divided Congress and to further its climate agenda. The plan reflects Biden’s commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels, as it supports the growing offshore wind industry and aims to protect coastal communities from environmental damage. However, the decision is unlikely to please everyone, with environmental groups criticizing the support for oil production and the oil industry expressing its concerns about energy security and inflation.
The plan will delay any new oil lease sales until 2025 and will only allow leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. This is due to provisions approved by Congress last year that require offshore oil leasing in order for offshore wind leasing to proceed. The Interior Department argues that the maximum of three sales is the smallest number it can do under the law while still expanding the offshore wind program. While Biden had promised to end drilling on federal land and waters, he has had to navigate legal and political constraints that have forced him to facilitate some fossil fuel projects.
The announcement is a blow to environmental advocacy groups like Oceana, who argue that the decision supports oil production that will worsen the effects of climate change. The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s largest trade group, claims that the limits will weaken energy security and potentially contribute to inflation. The Biden administration has emphasized that it has scaled back the program significantly compared to previous proposals, but critics argue that the three-sale plan is still insufficient. With crude oil prices rising and concerns about energy security and climate change mounting, the administration’s actions are becoming a contentious issue, particularly as the 2024 election approaches.