Biden Puts Eco-Activists Before American Motorists
It was only a month ago that we reported on the Biden administration's decision to resume the sale of oil and gas leases in the hope of getting a grip on exploding energy prices. As we explained at the time:
The announcement came on Good Friday, with Biden safely hidden away at Camp David for his Easter vacation, and therefore unavailable to answer questions, so was delivered by Interior Secretary (and devoted environmentalist) Deb Haaland, who had to sugarcoat the news for her fellow Green New Dealers.
Well it looks like the Greenies tracked down the president in the end because on Wednesday the Biden administration backtracked. According to the Washington Post, Haaland's Department of the Interior has announced the cancellation of already-scheduled oil lease sales, covering territory in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, "taking millions of acres off the auction block."
Even the normally leftist WaPo recognizes that this is a move which will have negative repercussions on the domestic and international fronts:
The decision, which comes as U.S. gas prices have reached record highs, effectively ends the possibility of the federal government holding a lease sale in coastal waters this year. The Biden administration is poised to let the nationwide offshore drilling program expire next month without a new plan in place.
While President Biden has spoken in recent weeks about the need to supply oil and gas to Europe so those nations can stop importing energy from Russia in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the move would mark a victory for climate activists intent on curbing U.S. fossil fuel leasing.
Which is to say, gas prices will continue to soar at home and Germany will continue to fund the war in Ukraine (while continuing to denounce it in the press).
The Post further explains that "the current five-year offshore drilling program will lapse at the end of June," and that the White House is "legally obligated" to put together a plan to replace it. The Biden administration has neglected to do so, however, blaming a "lack of interest" on the part of oil and gas companies.
While it is true that oil and gas companies have been somewhat reluctant about increasing spending and production under an administration that has treated them unfavorably from Day One, this particular claim is patently false, as is demonstrated by the obvious frustration of the resource sector at Team Biden's negligence:
Environmentalists praised the move, but the oil and gas industry and Republicans voiced dismay. Offshore drillers have sought to raise the alarm for months about the leasing program’s June 30 expiration date, saying that a lapse in the program would cost thousands of jobs and billions in lost tax revenue.
Lost jobs, lost tax revenue, exploding energy prices, and spiraling inflation. This presidency just keeps getting worse.
Biden Resumes Drilling Leases, but With a Catch
Sixteen months into Joe Biden's term in office, with soaring energy prices due to demand exceeding supply, inflation eating away at state and family budgets alike, and very much against its will, the White House has decided to change course and start selling oil and gas leases again.
The Biden administration announced Friday that it would resume selling new oil and gas leases on federal lands.... The announcement comes as Republicans pressure President Joe Biden to expand U.S. crude production and rein in higher gasoline prices contributing to record inflation.... Leases for 225 square miles (580 square kilometers) of federal lands primarily in the West will be offered for sale in a notice to be posted on Monday, officials said.
There's a catch, of course.
The Interior Department on Friday said it's moving forward with the first onshore sales of public oil and natural gas drilling leases under President Joe Biden, but will sharply increase royalty rates for companies as federal officials weigh efforts to fight climate change against pressure to bring down high gasoline prices.
The royalty rate for new leases will increase to 18.75% from 12.5%. That's a 50% jump and marks the first increase to royalties for the federal government since they were imposed in the 1920s. Biden suspended new leasing just a week after taking office in January 2021. A federal judge in Louisiana ordered the sales to resume, saying Interior officials had offered no "rational explanation" for canceling them.
The announcement came on Good Friday, with Biden safely hidden away at Camp David for his Easter vacation, and therefore unavailable to answer questions, so was delivered by Interior Secretary (and devoted environmentalist) Deb Haaland, who had to sugarcoat the news for her fellow Green New Dealers, sprinkling into her speech standard lefty nonsense:
For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of tribal nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands.
She neglected to mention the fact that Native groups have begged for an exemption to the original leasing ban, which they felt violated their autonomy, and were eventually granted one. Unfortunately the "local communities" who lost out on their lease revenues weren't so lucky.
Those communities will, however, benefit from the reported 50 percent hike on royalties for the new leases. Of course, this will likely have the effect of limiting the number of potential buyers. Moreover, the amount of land being offered for leases is substantially lower than that requested by the resource sector.
It didn't get as much publicity as the Keystone XL cancellation, but Joe Biden's executive order putting a moratorium on the sale of oil and gas leases on federal land was a very big deal. As we wrote at the time,
[Twenty-two] percent of American oil production and 12 percent of natural gas extraction occurs on federal land. Those numbers go up precipitously when you look at some of our western states -- according to the American Petroleum Institute, federal land production accounts for well over 92 percent of Wyoming's production, half of New Mexico’s, 42 percent of Colorado's, and 63 percent of Utah's.
Along with the likelihood of serious supply issues resulting from this order, we were also concerned about the financial angle -- according to Shawn Regan, “revenues from energy development on federal land... are a major source of federal income, second only to tax revenue.” As that revenue is split between the federal government and the states, this move was a direct attack on the budgets of western, resource heavy states who stood to lose as much as $1.6 billion per year on average.
Tuned in politicos have been delighting in the Hindenburg-esque descent of hyper partisan Clinton-loyalist Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget. But another tense confirmation battle has been less commented upon. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was nominated by President Biden to serve as Secretary for the Interior. Haaland is a staunch environmentalist Green New Dealer and putting her in charge of that department would be bad news for the resource sector.
In a piece entitled Deb Haaland Could Be a Disaster at Interior, Paul Gessing tells us why:
Haaland.... has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September. In May 2019, [she] told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”
As you can imagine, Republican senators haven't been enthusiastic about Haaland's nomination. During her confirmation hearing, she had a tense confrontation with senators John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy -- both of whom are doctors -- over a social media post in which she asserted that "Republicans don't believe in science." After hammering her about Biden's Keystone XL termination, Cassidy pointed to a State Department scientific survey which held that "building the pipeline lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” and voiced his concern that, under Haaland, the Interior department would “be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel [and not] guided by science.”
But more important than Republican objections, Joe Manchin -- perhaps the most powerful senator due to his status as the most conservative Democrat in an evenly divided chamber -- remains undecided on Haaland. If he votes 'No' -- a big if, though Haaland's comrade Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to trying to goad him into doing just that -- it would be nearly impossible for Team Biden to get her over the finish line.
In any event, if Haaland's nomination goes the way of Tanden's, maybe Biden will start thinking more strategically about how to get through appointments with the senate we actually have. No more partisan bomb throwers perhaps. Maybe he could even cut out the middle man and just ask Manchin to make the appointment for him. Worse things could happen.