Biden's Federal Oil Leases a Record Low for First 19 Months (State Land Commission/AP)
By Eric Mack | Sunday, 04 September 2022 07:43 PM EDT
After former President Donald Trump's push for energy independence, President Joe Biden has slowed federal oil leases to a record low for the early days of the administration, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Biden administration has leased fewer acres for offshore oil and gas drilling and on federal lands – as Biden promised during his campaign – than any administration at this stage since the end of the World War II, according to analysis of Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management data.
Because it was still new then, President Harry Truman was the last president to lease out fewer acres (65,658) than the Biden Interior Department did (126,228) in the first 19 months of his administration. Only President Richard Nixon in 1969-70 had leased fewer than 4.4 million acres at this stage of a first presidential term since Truman.
"The president said he was going to stop leasing, and he's been remarkably successful," Trump administration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Journal.
Leasing is down 97% from the first 19 months of the Trump administration, the Journal reported.
"No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling including offshore — no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill — period," Biden said during his campaign.
While the leasing is down, the Interior Department issued a record number of drilling permits for existing leases last year, and spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz told the paper the industry has moved more toward private and state-owned lands.
Also, she said, only 60% of the 35 million acres leased from the federal government is actively producing currently.
"There is no shortage of opportunity to produce oil from federal lands," Schwartz told the Journal.
White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan maintains the U.S. is producing near-record amounts of oil, while "making America a magnet for clean energy manufacturing investment, securing America's clean energy future, and putting us on track to meet our climate goals."
The Interior – which held 35 onshore oil and gas lease sales under former President Barack Obama in 2010 – had none in the Biden administration's first year, according to the report.
"Stepping up domestic production has been a priority of every president from Nixon right up through Obama and of course Trump," S&P Global Vice Chair Daniel Yergin told the Journal. "Whether Democrats or Republicans, presidents have wanted to embrace the idea of energy independence and production."
The Inflation Reduction Act law signed by Biden in August, requires the Interior to offer at least 2 million acres of federal land and 60 million offshore acres to oil and gas producers every year for the next decade.
The Department told the Journal it is committed to abiding by terms of the law, "including direction regarding the federal oil and gas programs."