Biden Administration Awards Drilling Leases in Manchin IRA Deal

Biden Administration Awards Drilling Leases in Manchin IRA Deal

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) granted 307 oil and gas leases (worth over $190 million in revenue to the federal government) to companies seeking to explore drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico. The original lease sale was first canceled by the Biden Administration, then reinstated by a Louisiana judge, then invalidated by a federal judge, and now reinstated by the Biden Administration under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), specifically one of the provisions secured by Senator Manchin in exchange for his vote.

The details of the agreement with Manchin for his supporting vote were not disclosed to House Democrats. On Sept. 12, 77 of them signed a letter urging the party away from resolutions (as described by media coverage) that pose high environmental costs. “These destructive provisions will allow polluting manufacturing and energy development projects to be rushed through before the families who are forced to live near them are even aware of the plans,” they write.

Fox: Manchin will be terribly embarrassed as a result of this | GOP lawmaker, September 13, 2022.

BOEM: 2023-2028 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program, August 12, 2022.

Bloomberg: Biden Oil, Gas Leasing Freeze Temporarily Reinstated, August 18, 2022.

Why This Matters

These Gulf of Mexico leases and the negotiations with Manchin illustrate just how complicated it is to decouple a nation, let alone a planet, from fossil fuels. For the first 19 months of his presidency, Biden kept oil-and-gas leasing at a 70-year low. But without Manchin’s support for the IRA, the record $369 billion in spending for climate change could not have passed Congress. Leader Schumer and other Senate Democrats had to trade their own votes toward Manchin’s proposal to reform the energy permitting process, which will expedite approvals for energy infrastructure projects.

When it comes to fossil fuels, speeding up the project approvals process is concerning. But the reform will also apply to new renewable energy infrastructure projects, adding the potential for it to make a positive impact.

PBS: Why both climate activists and the oil industry are unhappy with Biden’s new drilling leases, April 18, 2022.

Now This: Why Resuming Oil and Gas Leasing is Bad for the Environment, October 24, 2021.

Goodbye Fossil Fuels, Hello Trillions In Savings

A recent report from Oil Change International (OCI) provides evidence that drilling must stop immediately to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C, but one of the most repeated arguments against a rapid transition to renewable energy sources is the cost. Now, a new study by Oxford University estimates that $12 trillion could be saved by 2050 just by switching from fossil fuels to clean energy.

"Our latest research shows scaling-up key green technologies will continue to drive their costs down, and the faster we go, the more we will save," says lead author Dr. Rupert Way.

Based on its own economic modeling, the study found costs of decarbonization made by the IPCC and the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer to be overestimated. Researchers propose this is a deterrent to the necessary investment in what they call a “net economic benefit” to the world.

DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

UN: United by Science 2022 Launch Address by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, September 14, 2022.

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to CNN's Connect the World about the extreme heat, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.

MSNBC: We Must Pay Attention To ‘Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

WSJ: The Cost to Reduce Global Warming? $131 Trillion Is One Answer, October 29, 2021.

TED: Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don't they? | Myles Allen, December 4, 2020.