Joe Biden is backtracking on a key platform promise. The American president, who has made the fight against climate change one of his priorities, had shortly after his arrival at the White House in January 2021 proclaimed a moratorium on the granting of new concessions for oil and gas drilling on the lands and government-owned waters, pending review.
The Interior Department said in a statement on Friday (April 15th) that it would auction, starting next week, about 173 plots representing 144,000 acres (58,275 hectares) in nine states.
However, several changes will be made. The surface area proposed is now 80% less than that initially envisaged. Above all, the ministry will increase the royalties requested, which had not changed for at least a century, from 12.5% to 18.75% of profits. Interested companies will finally have to respect new conditions, such as consultation with Amerindian tribes or respect for “best available scientific methods” for the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in particular.
Popularity at half mast
This measure comes at a time when the American president is facing record inflation, particularly in the price of gasoline, which is undermining his popularity. He has been taking initiatives for several weeks aimed at lowering the price of crude oil, ordering, for example, at the end of March to draw heavily on the country’s strategic oil reserves.
The resumption of lease sales for oil and gas exploitation on federal lands is not expected to have an immediate effect, however, as the process typically takes several years.
The moratorium proclaimed by Joe Biden had already been well underway, with a judge suspending it in June 2021 on the basis that the administration needed to obtain congressional approval. The government had launched a few weeks later the auction of concessions at sea, in the Gulf of Mexico, canceled by justice in January. The Department of the Interior also approved thousands of oil and gas permits on federal lands in 2021.