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Deepwater Horizon

Fire boats battle a raging inferno caused by the explosion of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Flickr/cc)

'Lighting the Fuse on a Massive Carbon Bomb': Biden Rebuked on Eve of Drilling Lease Sale

"It's hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit."

Brett Wilkins

Climate and environmental campaigners on Tuesday took President Joe Biden to task on the eve of his administration's scheduled oil and gas drilling auction of 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico—a move that comes just days after the U.S. leader pleaded for "every nation to do its part" to combat the climate emergency at the U.N.-backed climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

"Continued leasing for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is a disaster for our environment, our economy, and our climate."

The Biden administration's first offshore fossil fuel extraction auction—Lease Sale 257—is scheduled for Wednesday morning, and would break the president's campaign promise of "no more drilling, including offshore."

The sale would also mark the end of a pause in federal fossil fuel leases implemented by executive order during Biden's first week in office.

In resuming U.S. lease sale auctions, the Resist Line 3 coalition accused the Biden of "actively selling away our futures."

Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a statement that "the Biden administration is lighting the fuse on a massive carbon bomb in the Gulf of Mexico."

"It's hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit," Monsell added.

Diane Hoskins, campaign director at the marine advocacy group Oceana, said Tuesday that "continued leasing for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is a disaster for our environment, our economy, and our climate."

"The industry has already stockpiled eight million acres of unused offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico—more than six times the size of Delaware—and that's before any new leases are sold," she continued. "Getting serious about reducing emissions from fossil fuels must start with ending leasing for more offshore oil and gas development."

According to an Oceana analysis:

Permanent offshore drilling protections for all unleased federal waters could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent to taking every car in the U.S. off the road for the next 15 years... Permanent protections in all unleased federal waters could prevent more than $720 billion in damages to people, property, and the environment.

"Leases sold today will not produce oil and gas for at least five years and will continue to pollute for another 30 years," Hoskins added. "We cannot afford reckless decades of carbon pollution in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change."

Last week, more than 260 organizations, including three dozen groups representing Gulf of Mexico communities, sent an open letter to Biden following the president's promise in Glasgow that the United States would be "leading by the power of our example" in combating the climate emergency.

"You promised to address the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves, and in Glasgow, you assured the world that your plans to cut emissions are a fait accompli, not mere rhetoric," the letter stated. "Selling more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development just days after the international climate talks makes a mockery of those commitments."

Although supporters of the president note that a federal judge blocked Biden's pause on new drilling on public lands, he had already come under fire for approving more fossil fuel drilling projects on public lands than either the Barack Obama or Donald Trump administrations.

CBD's Monsell said that the new auction "will inevitably lead to more catastrophic oil spills, more toxic climate pollution, and more suffering for communities and wildlife along the Gulf Coast."

"Biden has the authority to stop this," she added, "but instead he's casting his lot in with the fossil fuel industry and worsening the climate emergency."

Hoskins said that "instead of repeating mistakes from the past, President Biden must uphold his commitment to end new offshore oil and gas leasing. We urge the administration to immediately reverse course and explore every opportunity to uphold the president's commitment to protecting our communities, our climate, and our economy from the threat of drilling."

"Our oceans can and must be a major part of our clean energy future through renewable offshore wind power," she added, "but we are counting on President Biden to keep his promise to end further offshore oil and gas leasing."


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