Biden’s disastrous oil and gas plan could not come at a worse time

Opinion by William Perry Pendley 

About this time last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that, during his first 19 months in office, President Joe Biden leased fewer federal lands for oil and gas development than only one other president since the end of World War II. From President Nixon on, it recounted, no other president leased fewer than 4.4 million acres, with President Reagan holding the record of 48 million acres leased in 1981 and 1982. 

Those figures make Biden’s 126,228 federal acres leased all the more shocking. Only President Truman leased fewer acres—65,658—from 1945 to 1946, but Truman had an excuse. Federal leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which today comprises the majority of federal energy production and revenues, would not begin until 1954.

Last month, in a throwback to the days of Harry Truman, Biden released his statutorily required five-year OCS leasing plan, which all but ends the OCS oil and gas program. Following President Trump’s planned eleven OCS lease sales, Biden proposed only three, one each in 2025, 2027, and 2029.  Biden wanted even fewer sales; in fact, he proclaimed as much in a soft-ball interview with the Weather Channel in August, blaming the courts for stopping him from a total shut down of oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal courts have done just that. One court proclaimed Biden’s oil and gas leasing “pause,” both onshore and off-shore, illegal back in June 2021.  Last month, another federal court stopped Biden from reducing the acres offered in an upcoming OCS sale following a sweetheart deal with radical environment groups, the terms of which were not disclosed.  It was not federal courts, however, that compelled the three sales Biden announced. Congressional Democrats, in odd twist, included that mandate in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act as the condition precedent to Biden’s preferred OCS wind-power leasing.

Biden’s disastrous OCS oil and gas leasing plan could not come at a worse time.  In late September, the Federal Reserve reported that, in August, inflation peaked at its highest in nine months, driven in large part by soaring gas prices.  That was before Saudi Arabia and Russia announced they would reduce daily oil production by a million barrels.  Many experts already expect that the price of oil could hit one hundred dollars a barrel in the near future.  Thus, with what some predict will be a long, harsh winter ahead, more Americans will be required to choose between food and fuel.

The importance of the 1.7 billion acre federal OCS oil and gas program goes without saying, but, given the dearth of public knowledge on the subject, bears repeating.  Today the OCS accounts for 18 percent of domestic oil production and four percent of domestic natural gas production.  It provides billions of dollars annually for the U.S. Treasury, states, and, under the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1964, for outdoor recreation.  Over 300,000 Americans work in the federal OCS oil and gas industry, representing every State in the Union.  Even more significantly, the best may be yet to come.  The Biden administration admits yet undiscovered resources in the Gulf of Mexico alone may be as much as 36.27 billion barrels of oil and 62.56 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Biden administration’s actions remove about six million acres of potentially oil-rich leases from an upcoming federal lease sale. Getty Images© Getty Images

Nonetheless, Biden seeks to all but end the OCS program; worse, expect even further restrictions in the tracts leases, stipulations imposed, including the speed that supply vehicles may travel from port to offshore platforms, and settlements reached with litigious environmental groups to curtail oil and gas drilling and production.  Meanwhile Biden, on his first day in the Oval Office, withdrew OCS areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea.  More recently, in early September, Biden cancelled oil and gas leases in the Artic National Wildlife Refuse and forbid new oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, much to the dismay of those living in The Last Frontier.  In the lower 48, Biden continues to restrict if not outright bar onshore federal oil and gas leasing, drilling, and development.  At the same time, despite his pledge to renewable energy, Biden shut down a world class Minnesota mine that would supply electric vehicle mineral needs and declared the nation’s richest uranium deposit in Arizona off-limits to mining, despite that nuclear power provides 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 50 percent of its carbon-free electricity.

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With a world war possible as at no time in living memory for most Americans and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at its lowest level since 1983, when it comes to domestic energy, the nation is headed in the wrong direction.  It is however, the direction Biden promised to take us.  Whether anyone can stop him from continuing down that danger and even deadly road before November 2024 is doubtful.

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