The list of buyers for 80 million acres of offshore drilling space read like an index of who will be destroying the planet.
Days after the U.N. climate conference, Biden held the largest oil lease auction ever
Fresh off a visit to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) where the U.S. promised to lead in the global effort to combat the threat of climate change while simultaneously blaming others for not doing enough, you’d think that President Joe Biden would want to do something that emphasized that renewed commitment to the planet. At least, perhaps the last thing you’d want to do following a major climate conference is, say, auction off a record amount of land to fossil fuel giants so that they can drill for oil.
Alas, the Biden administration did exactly that Wednesday morning, auctioning off 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, an area larger than the entire state of New Mexico, to oil and gas companies that are looking to expand their offshore drilling operations.
The auction, officially referred to as Lease Sale 257, was the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversaw the sale, estimates that the land could produce up to 1.1 billion barrels of oil and 4.42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. “Auction” also may be a generous description of what occurred, as many of the plots were sold off without any competing bids. It made the whole thing feel like reading a list of who will be contributing to the destruction of the planet and how much they are paying to do it.
Technically, the sale was put into motion by the Trump administration. And while President Biden did attempt to cancel it, along with other proposed oil and gas leases that are set to sell off parts of federally owned land and water, via an executive order, a federal judge in Louisiana blocked his move earlier this year.
Could the Biden administration have done more to fight that decision? Almost certainly. Could they have sought other avenues to block the sale of federal lands to exploitative oil firms while the case goes through an appeals process? Definitely. Did they? Nope. Instead, we’re plowing ahead with more opportunities to contribute to our own demise.
“The Department [of the Interior] is complying with a U.S. District Court’s decision regarding Sale 257 while the government appeals the decision,” Melissa Schwartz, the communications cirector for the Department of the Interior, which oversees all U.S. oil and gas leases, tells Mic. “At the same time, Interior is conducting a more comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from potential oil and gas lease sales than ever before.”
So just how bad will this be? The Center for American Progress warns that these new leases could contribute as many as 723 million metric tons of carbon emissions over their lifetime. That would be the equivalent of dropping more than 150 million additional cars onto American roads or operating an additional 182 coal plants for a year. That’s going to make Biden’s goal of cutting the country’s emissions by half by the end of the decade a little more difficult.