By Casey Harper, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden canceled three pending oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico this week as gas prices hit record highs.
Biden has taken heavy fire for blocking new leases and pipelines as energy costs have surged but has defended his record. This latest development intensified that criticism.
“It’s day 477 of the Biden administration, we have record gas prices, and they have still not leased one acre of land to drill oil,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said.
The Department of Interior announced the decision late Wednesday, saying there was not enough industry interest in the areas. Experts argue the Biden administration’s fight to cancel all oil and gas leasing has made it risky and unappealing for the oil and gas industry to begin new investments in the U.S. The Alaska lease had difficulty receiving interest at certain points in the past before Biden took office.
“Canceling oil and gas leases is part of Biden’s ongoing punishing of the industry including threatening banks for lending and investment,” said Daniel Turner, executive director of the energy workers advocacy group, Power the Future. “We are all living the consequence: outrageously high prices and growing shortages.”
The decision comes just days after the U.S. hit record high gas prices. According to AAA, the national average gas price is currently $4.42, up from $3 per gallon the same time last year, when prices had already begun to rise. Federal inflation data released Wednesday also showed a slight decline in energy costs in April but still overall a major increase in energy prices in the past year.
Biden blocked all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands via executive order shortly after taking office, but a federal judge overturned that decision.
Earlier this week, the White House defended Biden’s work on energy costs.
“He’s also taken steps that are definitely smaller but meant to do anything possible, including issuing a waiver for E15 so that thousands of pumps in the Midwest could have gasoline that – and make it available to Americans so that that’s 10 cents less,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “He also has noted … that oil companies should also do their part in ensuring they’re not price gouging customers at the pump. As oil prices come down, so should gas prices at the pump. And that’s also something that we are going to continue to watch closely and continue to call on steps to be taken.”
Meanwhile, many Republicans blasted Biden for the decision.
“As gas prices hit an all-time high in the USA, [the president] cancelled a vital round of oil and gas lease sales this morning,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said. “High gas prices are preventable. Democrats are putting woke politics ahead of American families.”
They also pointed to the record high gas prices.
“Yesterday Americans paid the highest price for gasoline in history,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said. “At the same time Biden, just cancelled our largest pending American oil [and] gas lease sale”
Critics say Biden’s green agenda has Americans paying the price.
“Biden has repeatedly said he is doing everything in his power to lower gas prices, but then he pushes policies like this which cripple the industry’s ability to produce,” Turner said. “It also scares off any investment. Joe Biden made it clear in his campaign that he believes fossil fuels are the enemy. By making them scare and expensive he creates a narrative to push his green agenda.”
The Center Square is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.