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Biden Administration Sells Off Vast Patch Of Gulf Of Mexico For Fossil Fuel Drilling

Despite the promises of Joe Biden's administration, fossil fuel extraction in the Gulf of Mexico is alive and kicking.

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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Oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico - aerial view

Thousands of oil and gas drilling structures have been installed in the Gulf of Mexico - and more could soon join them. Image credit: donvictorio/Shutterstock.com

The US has auctioned off an enormous patch of the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel drilling in spite of the Biden administration's promises to address the deepening climate crisis and wean the country off fossil fuels. 

On March 29, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a lease sale for oil and gas drilling encompassing a total of 29.5 million hectares (73 million acres) of the Gulf of Mexico’s Western, Central, and Eastern Planning Areas – that’s an area larger than the state of Arizona. 

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Over $263.8 million was spent at the auction. A total of 313 tracts, covering 650,000 hectares (1.6 million acres) of federal waters, were bought up by a number of different fossil fuel companies, including many of the usual suspects: Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP.

The sale came just weeks after the Biden administration gave formal approval for a controversial oil drilling project in Alaska known as the Willow Project. 

Gulf of Mexico federal waters offered up for oil and gas auction
Map showing areas where federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico were offered up in an oil and gas auction in late March. Image credit: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management


Tackling climate change is often cited as a top priority for the Biden administration, whose action has involved rejoining the Paris climate agreement and investing in clean energy infrastructure. Part of the Biden 2020 campaign included a climate plan that incorporated the "banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters" with the ultimate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Off the back of these high hopes, these latest auctions have left a bad taste in the mouth of environmental groups who believe that Biden's promises are full of hot air. 

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“Murderous,” is how the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion described the Gulf of Mexico leasing.

“The Biden administration has pledged to oversee a historic transition to clean energy, but actions speak louder than words. We don’t need a billion new barrels of crude oil threatening people and ecosystems in the Gulf,” George Torgun, an attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement

The Gulf auction is interwoven with a number of thorny legal and political issues. The administration was forced to hold the sale after provisions for Gulf of Mexico oil leasing were snuck into the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the $739 Billion climate and energy bill that President Biden signed last year.

However, Earthjustice argues that the IRA directive doesn't require such a vast area to be auctioned off. They also contend that the sale failed to take into account the potential environmental and health hazards it will cause for communities living around the Gulf Of Mexico.

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Earthjustice filed a lawsuit to try to stop the lease sale, arguing that it broke the law, but it still went ahead. 

“The excessive and reckless scope of today’s oil and gas lease sale demonstrates how badly our federal leasing program needs reform. The Biden administration is not only holding a lease sale that is at odds with the law — but also succumbing to the wants of a profit-rich industry over the well-being of Gulf communities, vital ecosystems, and our urgent climate goals,” added Torgun in another statement given on the day of the auction. 


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natureNaturenatureenvironment
  • tag
  • climate change,

  • oil,

  • natural gas,

  • environment,

  • Gulf of Mexico,

  • oil drilling,

  • fossil fuel,

  • climate crisis,

  • President Biden,

  • science and society

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