The Biden administration must act swiftly to finalize and implement the offshore oil and gas leasing program. We are in the middle of a substantial, unnecessary, and avoidable gap in offshore leasing that is having serious impacts for both near-term and long-term investment in U.S. energy production.
The gap in offshore lease sales – and all of negative impacts associated with reduced domestic production – will continue for the foreseeable future until a final leasing program is in place and lease sales resume. The proposed leasing plan is just one step in the process, and it is imperative that the Administration act without any further delays and finalize the program as proposed, without reduced acreage. At a time of historic tightness in the global oil marketplace and associated high prices for Americans, we need energy policies that promote continued and growing supplies from U.S. producing regions.
Every administration – whether they were Republican or Democrat – have recognized the strategic advantages of the U.S. offshore and fulfilled their statutory obligation to maintain an offshore leasing program and continuously hold lease sales. This is the first year that the U.S. will not hold an offshore lease sale since 1965. That year, Bonanza and Gomer Pyle were the most popular shows on television and the Sound of Music topped the box office.
Including two lease sales per year in the Gulf of Mexico – as proposed – supports the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. offshore. Most leases do not contain commercially viable amounts of oil or gas. Efforts to limit acreage or hold fewer lease sales would needlessly eliminates opportunities for U.S. energy production in a basin that is recognized as providing among the lowest carbon barrels. Wood Mackenzie predicts that restrictions on U.S. Gulf of Mexico production could "have a counterproductive impact on global emissions."
The final offshore leasing program must include multiple, regionwide lease sales per year in the Gulf of Mexico to provide the flexibility necessary for companies to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and to pursue the most promising geologic prospects of hydrocarbons. The U.S. offshore Gulf of Mexico region is one of the top oil producing basins in the world. It is world class, high-tech, and is characterized by low carbon emissions. We can work together to advance energy policy that is grounded in reality by securing affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy here at home, while also widening the pathway for deployment of low and zero carbon technologies and energy sources. We need to look no further than the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to achieve our energy policy goals, and this requires the prompt finalization and resumption of a robust domestic offshore oil and gas leasing program.
Erik Milito is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.