Biden Admin Has Leased Fewer Acres for Oil and Gas Drilling of Any Admin Going Back to WWII at This Point in Presidency


The Biden administration has leased far fewer acres for oil-and-gas drilling on federal lands and offshore than any administration going back to the end of World War II at the same point in their term.

“President [Joe] Biden’s Interior Department leased 126,228 acres for drilling through Aug. 20, his first 19 months in office, [an] analysis found. No other president since Richard Nixon in 1969-70 leased out fewer than 4.4 million acres at this stage in his first term,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

In other words, Biden’s all but fulfilled his 2020 campaign pledge to bring an end to future drilling on federal lands.

“No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling including offshore — no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill — period,” Biden said in a March 2020 presidential primary debate, according to the Journal.

His campaign representative clarified after the debate that Biden was referring to his policy to ban new permits for oil and gas drilling.

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Shortly after taking office, under the auspices of addressing climate change, Biden suspended oil and gas leasing on federal lands and reinstated an Obama-era carbon dioxide emission federal fee to oil drilling operations, which had been lowered significantly under former President Donald Trump.

Additionally, the Biden administration shut down oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

Reuters reported in January that the Department of the Interior said it would be scrapping a Trump administration decision to expand leasing and development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which is separate from ANWR.

According to Energy Information Administration, the U.S. produced 11.8 million barrels per day in June, the latest figure available, which is down from the country’s peak production of roughly 13 million in November 2019 under the Trump administration.

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Though the price of gasoline has come down over the summer, it is still approximately $1.40 per gallon more than when Biden took office.

The Journal reported that federal leases account for over a quarter of U.S. oil production and in 2021 the production hit a record high dating back to 2003, based on Interior Department statistics.

However, these leases take years to develop, meaning the current high production levels date back to the Trump administration and before.

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“The leases are kind of our raw material,” Stephen Green, who oversees exploration and production for Chevron Corp. in North America, told the Journal. “Chevron or the industry needs a predictable source of raw material.”

During its first 17 months in power, the Biden administration held no onshore lease sales. At the end of June, it held five.

In all, the Interior Department has awarded just 203 leases in its first 19 months, which is one-tenth of those granted during the Trump and Obama administrations during the same period of time.

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