The Biden administration has considerably slowed its approval of new oil and natural gas drilling leases on public lands, despite facing pressure to more aggressively urge fossil fuel companies to increase their production in the face of high domestic energy prices.
The number of approvals in recent months has been less than half what they were at their peak around the time President Biden took office, going from as many as 643 in April 2021 to as few as 95 in January of this year, according to Bureau of Land Management permit statistics reviewed by E&E News.
That’s a reduction of 85% since last spring.
Though Mr. Biden’s administration gave the green light to more oil and gas drilling wells in his first year than his predecessor did in his first year, the steep decline since last summer came at a time when inflation began exacerbating energy costs and causing prices at the pump to increase.
Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has only made matters worse.
Until recently, the Biden administration has been reluctant to say that domestic producers should ramp up output to blunt record-high prices and rejected calls from Republicans and critics to rapidly increase the approval of new drilling permits on public land.
A leading argument from the White House has been that companies sit on some 9,000 unused oil and natural gas leases. But few leases ultimately end up being viable energy producers.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told energy industry analysts, executives, government officials and financial leaders at the conference CERAWeek by S&P Global last week that the U.S. was on a “war footing” that called for an increase in “short-term supply where we can right now to stabilize the market and minimize harm to American families.”
The average cost for a regular gallon of gas was at $4.33 on Monday, according to AAA. That is an increase of 26 cents from one week ago and 84 cents from one month ago.
The war in Ukraine and the U.S. banning Russian energy imports have caused a recent spike, but analysts have long warned that prices would rise exponentially due to global demand outpacing supply coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have placed the onus to increase output on fossil fuel companies, saying producers have purposely limited production to generate record profits after energy prices plummeted during the pandemic.