Biden Administration Authorizes Offshore Drilling

by Michael Sheen

Image: The Conversation

What You Can Do

  1. Do not be complacent with the current administration and continue to support policies that combat climate change
  2. Spread awareness about harmful offshore drilling laws
  3. Support the coasts and oceans from gas drilling at

Early in his presidency, Joe Biden faced the grand task of reversing the unsustainable policies from the Trump administration. In his campaign, Biden declared climate change as a “code red” emergency, emphasizing the importance of green practices. Planning to invest in the energy sector and lead the world in clean energy, the Biden administration hoped to uplift the economy and create an eco-friendly future for our children and grandchildren [1]. The President developed a clean energy plan that aimed to reach net-zero emissions before 2050 and seek for environmental justice worldwide [1]. Having entered office earlier this year, Biden so far issued numerous executive orders and pushed for green policies. 

Eight months into office, the Biden administration recently appealed an order that would permit federal officials to lease over 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling [2]. Inevitably, the announcement sparked controversy among many environmental groups that hoped Biden would fulfill his promises. Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra club, expected a complete ban on leasing public lands for fossil fuels. A major reason their members wrote and phoned a million undecided voters was solely due to Biden’s promise to transition away from fossil fuels [2]. Yet, the President’s administration overlooked the warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate (IPCC), a group built to assess sustainable methods and provide policymakers the science behind climate change [3]. In their latest assessment report to the Whitehouse, the IPCC condemned anthropogenic activities as the leading cause of the recent increase in extreme weathering events [3]. Further fossil fuel extraction would only exacerbate the effects of climate change and disregard the IPCC’s goal to decarbonize energy. Despite these cautions, the Biden administration declared that the report did not provide sufficient evidence to stop leasing millions of acres of lands [4]. 

Denying the IPCC’s recommendation and allowing petroleum companies to extract more fuel disregards current scientific evidence and contradicts the administration’s initial proposal. Offshore drilling from ocean reserves contributed to about a quarter of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions in 2018 [5]. To combat this, Biden issued an executive order at the start of his presidency that allowed the Secretary of The Interior to halt oil and natural gas leases on public lands until there was a comprehensive review that considered “potential climate and other impacts” [6]. After this order, the administration planned to no longer lease the 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel extraction. In objection to this decision, 13 Republican states sued and later filed a lawsuit against the administration to allow them to lease these lands. In September 2021, the office decided to allow the Gulf of Mexico lease, stating that there isn’t sufficient evidence supporting the environmental impact of offshore drillings [4]. The decision, however, used outdated information from 2016 and did not include the current evidence that pins human-induced emissions as the main culprit of climate change [2]. The Biden administration takes a noncommittal stance on leasing public lands for fossil fuel extraction and is not supporting their original goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Climate change is an immediate danger that requires attention from government officials. Allowing public lands to be leased since there’s “insufficient evidence” is an excuse from the higher ups. Despite the criticism towards the current administration, Biden has been taking important steps during his time. In mid-September, the administration finalized a regulation that would reduce hydrofluorocarbons in air conditioning and refrigeration [7]. Having the power to end offshore leasing altogether, President Biden holds a great responsibility in a pivotal time in the clean energy revolution.