Gas prices have spiked yet again in the U.S., but instead of turning to oil drilling to ease the crisis, the Biden administration just cancelled three offshore drilling lease sales.
On Monday, the gas price average was $4.48 per gallon, AAA reported.
Last week the Biden administration announced that it was canceling three scheduled auctions, which would have opened up space in Alaska’s Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Mexico for drilling, The Hill reported.
The Department of Interior spokeswomen Melissa Schwartz said that the leases were cancelled “due to lack of industry interest in leasing in the area,” the Washington Post reported.
The cancellation of these leases means that there are currently no more sales scheduled, which means there will be no new drilling.
“This cancellations don’t impact any activities related to current oil production, but they do block the industry from getting new leases, which kick off the lengthy process for getting fuel out of the ocean,” The Hill reported.
Moreover, its unclear what the administration’s plans are moving forward from here.
Federal law requires the Department of the Interior to stick to a five-year leasing plan for auctioning offshore leases. The current five-year plan expires at the end of June.
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The Interior Department is working on a new leasing plan, but it has not said when that will be issued.
This is the fourth time that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has cancelled the lease sales in Cook Inlet.
In 2007, 2008 and 2011 the department also cited “lack of industry interest” when scrapping the sales, CBS News reported.
However, Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski released a statement after this most recent cancellation.
“Citing a ‘lack of industry interest’ is nothing more than fantasy from an administration that shuns U.S. energy production. Cook Inlet is the sole source of the natural gas that more than 400,000 people in Southcentral Alaska — and significant military bases that are critical to our national security — depend on,” Murkowski said.
“I can say with full certainty, based on conversations as recently as last night, that Alaska’s industry does have interest in lease sales in Cook Inlet. To claim otherwise is simply false, not to mention stunningly short-sighted. The Biden administration needs to recognize how this decision is going to hurt Alaskans, reverse it immediately and get the federal oil and gas program back on track now,” she added.
There is confusion over why the Biden administration cancelled both the Cook Inlet and Gulf of Mexico leases in the midst of such a fuel crisis.
“This announcement puts the Biden administration’s blatant disregard for Americans, our economy and our ongoing inflation crisis on full display,” said Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, in a statement. “I can’t imagine a more tone-deaf, shortsighted decision that jeopardizes our economic and energy security without doing a single thing to help the environment or the American people.”
Other Republicans joined in condemning these cancellations.
“President Biden’s administration is actively making high gas prices worse,” said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, The Hill reported. “When we need to unleash American energy production, the Biden administration kills opportunities at every turn.”
However, off shore leases do not mean that there would be new oil right away.
It usually takes seven to 10 years for offshore leases to actually start producing fuel, according to the Hill.
So, granting these leases today would not drive down gas prices tomorrow.
But though leases may not solve the current fuel crisis, that still does not provide a clear answer for why the administration decided to cancel them.