By Thomas Neuburger
There's a bit of a controversy around a recent Biden administration move to resume auctions for oil and gas drilling rights on federal property.
Of course, it's known by now by most Americans — by everyone who isn't crazy (looking at you, the irreducible 22% of Americans who'd be John Birchers even if Fox News never existed), or who isn't deep in the pockets of the oil and gas industry (looking at you, pro-corporate media) — that the climate change train has left the station. It hasn't gotten very far out of it, but like the dark at end of day, it's getting there.
Biden administration to resume drilling auctions in setback to climate agenda
Aug 31 (Reuters) - The Biden administration announced plans on Tuesday to open millions of acres for oil and gas exploration as the White House sought to comply with a court order requiring it to resume lease auctions.
The move, which includes some 80 million acres of water in the Gulf of Mexico along with potentially hundreds of thousands more onshore, represents a setback for Democratic President Joe Biden's plans to fight climate change, which included a campaign vow to end new federal oil and gas leasing.
Biden paused drilling auctions after taking office in January pending an analysis of their impacts on the environment and value to taxpayers. That review is ongoing, officials have said.
In June, however, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered a resumption of auctions, saying the government was required by law to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry.
The U.S. Interior Department on Tuesday said it would offer almost all available, unleased blocks in a more than 90 million acre area in the Gulf of Mexico. The sale could ultimately result in production of up to 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a sale document posted online.
The sale is roughly the same size as offshore sales held by the Trump administration, which downplayed the threats from global warming and sought to maximize domestic fossil fuel production.
There's a lot to notice here, and one hidden fact you won't find noticed elsewhere.
First, the sale is as big as Trump's offshore lease sales, and you know where Trump stood on oil and gas — the more we burn, the better. This is a Trump-sized affront to the environment and our children's future.
Second, the article presumes that the Biden administration didn't really want the sales to go forward, but a bad (and Trump-appointed) federal judge made them do it anyway. It also presumes that Biden's campaign-era language about vowing to "end new federal oil and gas leasing" is sincere.
Third, the Interior Department immediately said it would comply. They don't appear to be putting up much of a fight.
All of this so far, paints a generally positive picture of the Biden administration's position on oil and gas leases. It wants to stop, according to the tone and slant of the article, but a federal judge just won't let them. Darn the luck!
Fourth, later in the article we learn that the Record of Decision, the official document detailing the leasing plans, states (in the words of the Reuters writer) that "a United Nations report that warned earlier this month that climate change was dangerously close to spiraling out of control 'does not present sufficient cause' to revise an existing environmental analysis of the offshore lease sale, which was conducted by the Trump administration." [emphasis added]
Fifth, the reason given for surrendering so quickly to the judge is that Biden thinks the obvious evidence of dangerous climate change doesn't represents "sufficient cause" to overturn a Trump-era environmental analysis. By accepting the climate-hating Trump administration's environmental analysis, Biden's left himself no legs to stand on. By that logic, of course he must comply.
To put this more simply, Biden says he would love to end oil and gas leasing, but the Senate Parliamentarian (sorry, a Trump federal judge and a Trump environmental impact analysis) won't let him. Darn the luck!
Of course, people and groups who actually are pro-climate have filed suit, saying "the [Trump era] environmental analysis behind the auction is flawed and violated federal law."
Isn't this a suit his administration should be filing? Apparently not.
So what's the conclusion. Does Biden really want to end oil and gas leases? Apparently not.
And a bonus observation, noticed nowhere else. One of the great progressive wins of the Biden cabinet fights was getting native American Deb Haaland nominated to head the Department of Interior, which contains, among other things, the Bureau of Indian Affairs:
President-elect Joe Biden's nomination of Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the interior—the successful culmination of a campaign waged by a broad coalition of social and environmental justice advocates—was met with applause on Thursday.
Climate justice and Indigenous rights advocates commended the decision to put the progressive Native American congresswoman from New Mexico in charge of the department overseeing 500 million acres of federal land—calling the move promising for the responsible development of clean energy infrastructure and for the reversal of the fossil fuel industry's harmful legacy of extraction and pollution on land belonging to the U.S. public and tribal nations.
"This is a big deal," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). [emphasis added]
By all accounts, Deb Haaland is a good and reliable progressive, and praise for her nomination is well founded. Further, I can see why she'd feel both honored and obligated to accept it.
Except for this — Deb Haaland will sign off on each of Biden's climate betrayals facilitated by the DoI. She will have no choice.
And Biden will bask in her progressive credentials as she does it.
I would not want to be in Deb Haaland's progressive shoes when Exxon shows up to collect on his broken promises. Her signature will be on the receipt.
It's true indeed, to quote the Guardian, that "the building is burning and all the world's babies are in it." Those babies will thank none of them when comes their time to roast.