The release of this U.S. offshore leasing program, mandated by law and long overdue, is an utter failure for the country. President Biden’s approach to severely limit leasing significantly curtails access to a critical national asset at a time when energy inflation is rampant, the likelihood of a national recession looms, and global efforts are intensifying to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The White House simply ignores our energy realities, once again limiting U.S. energy production opportunities. With global demand at record levels and continuing to rise, regressive policies like this serve to harm Americans of all walks of life by putting upward pressure on prices at the pump, destroying good-paying jobs that form the fabric of Gulf Coast communities, and relinquishing geopolitical advantages of energy production to countries like Russia, Iran, and China.
Furthermore, the decision to postpone environmental analyses for individual lease sales needlessly compounds the erosion of long-term confidence and certainty in the Gulf of Mexico region. Environmental assessments for lease sales typically take one to two years to complete, which is precisely why they are conventionally carried out in tandem with leasing program development. Every prior administration, irrespective of party, followed this process in a way that enabled uninterrupted leasing activities. The choice to slow walk lease sales while the Interior Department embarks on environmental work is just setting the table for potential future delays, including from litigation by activist groups, and an offshore energy leasing cliff.
Policies that limit domestic offshore development force us to rely more on energy imports, often from countries with higher emissions. This jeopardizes our energy security, and economic prosperity, and undermines our efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change—goals purportedly championed by the current administration.
Eric Milito is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.