By Casey Harper (The Central Square)
President Joe Biden this week canceled three pending oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico as gas prices hit record highs.
Biden has drawn heavy criticism for blocking new leases and pipelines as energy costs have risen, but has defended his record. This latest development intensified that criticism.
“It’s day 477 of the Biden administration, we have record gas prices and they still haven’t leased an acre of land to drill for oil,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas.
The Interior Department announced the decision Wednesday night, saying there was not enough industry interest in the areas. Experts argue that the Biden administration’s fight to cancel all oil and gas leases has made it risky and unattractive for the oil and gas industry to start new investments in the US. The Alaska lease had difficulties receiving interest at certain times in the past before Biden took office.
“Canceling oil and gas leases is part of Biden’s ongoing punishment of the industry, which includes threatening banks for loans and investments,” said Daniel Turner, executive director of energy worker advocacy group Power the Future. “We are all living with the consequence: outrageously high prices and growing shortages.”
The decision comes just days after the US hit record gasoline prices. According to AAA, the national average price for gasoline is currently $4.42, up from $3 a gallon in the same period last year, when prices had already started to rise. Federal inflation data released Wednesday also showed a slight decline in energy costs in April, but still, overall, a major rise in energy prices in the past year.
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Biden blocked all new oil and gas leases on federal land through an executive order shortly after taking office, but a federal judge overturned that decision.
Earlier this week, the White House defended Biden’s work on energy costs.
“He has also taken steps that are definitely smaller but intended to do everything possible, including issuing an exemption for E15 so that thousands of pumps in the Midwest can have that gasoline, and making it available to Americans to be 10 cents less,” White said House press secretary Jen Psaki. “He has also pointed out … that oil companies should also do their part to ensure that they are not raising customer prices at the pump. As oil prices fall, so should gasoline prices at the pump. And that’s also something that we’re going to continue to watch closely and continue to call for steps to be taken.”
Meanwhile, many Republicans criticized Biden for the decision.
“As gasoline prices hit an all-time high in the US, [the president] canceled a vital round of oil and gas lease sales this morning,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. “High gasoline prices are preventable. Democrats are putting wakeful politics ahead of American families.”
They also pointed to record gasoline prices.
“Yesterday, Americans paid the highest price in history for gasoline,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. “At the same time, Biden has just canceled our largest pending US oil deal. [and] sale of gas lease”
Critics say Biden’s green agenda has Americans paying the price.
“Biden has repeatedly said that he is doing everything in his power to lower gasoline prices, but then he pushes through policies like this that cripple industry production capacity,” Turner said. “He also scares away any investment. Joe Biden made it clear on his campaign that he believes fossil fuels are the enemy. By making them scary and expensive, he creates a narrative to push his green agenda.”
Distributed with permission from The Center Square.