• Biden Administration releases plan for just three oil and gas leases, angering both oil and gas industry and environmentalists

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

In the USA, the administration of President Joe Biden has released a plan to reduce offshore oil and gas leasing as it tries to balance the competing needs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining reasonable fuel prices. Mr Biden pledged to end new federal leasing for oil and gas projects while on the presidential campaign trail in 2020 and made an executive order to that affect upon assuming the presidency.

However, a court ruling blocked the move, and the high energy prices caused by the covid pandemic and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushed Mr Biden into approving such leases. The Interior Department released its five-year plan for offshore oil drilling on 29 September, with just three sites in the Gulf of Mexico (which produces about 15% of U.S. crude) being put up for sale. This is the lowest number since 1980, where previous plans have typically had between 11 and 41 sites. The plan has been staunchly criticised by both the oil and gas industry and by environmentalists, though for starkly different reasons, as Reuters reports.

The president of the National Ocean Industries Association said that the plan was an “utter failure for the country” in terms of petroleum prices, energy security and jobs, while the president of Earthjustice said that “we are too far along in the climate crisis to be committing ourselves to decades of new fossil fuel extraction, especially following the hottest summer in recorded history”.

For its part, the Interior Department said it had approved the plan to allow the expansion of offshore wind power production, with the two matters being linked as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.