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Massive Gulf of Mexico Offshore Drilling Auction: Biden Administration Sparks Controversy

Massive Gulf of Mexico Offshore Drilling Auction: Biden Administration Sparks Controversy
One person who writes about climate change said that letting the Willow Project go forwards in Alaska would be "morally abhorrent, and bad politics, to boot." (Photo: Lee Celano/REUTERS)

A few weeks after approving the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, the Biden administration did an offshore drilling auction of over 73 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico.

Massive Gulf of Mexico Offshore Drilling Auction: Biden Administration Sparks Controversy

In the coming days, the Biden administration is rumored to release an environmental analysis that will endorse partial approval of a massive oil drilling initiative on the North Slope of Alaska, alarming climate activists who assert that the so-called Willow Project poses a grave threat to the environment, local communities, and wildlife. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Sunrise AU)

Environmental Views on the Project

It is the first Gulf of Mexico offshore drilling auction under Biden’s Administration that actually leads to new drilling. In the past, legal challenges and delays have slowed down or stopped previous auctions.

Environmental organizations have already filed a lawsuit to stop the offshore drilling auction. In an environmental analysis, it was said that this offshore drilling auction could release about 21.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. 

The BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) of the Interior Department will hold a lease sale on Wednesday for an area that is more than twice as big as the Willow Project in acres. Joe Manchin added the sale to the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed last year. This meant that the government had to hold the offshore drilling auction.

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Difficult Politics on Offshore Drilling Auction

It comes after a messy and long-lasting legal battle over an 80-million-acre lease sale the government offered in 2021. In that case, a Louisiana judge threw out Vice President Joe Biden‘s attempt to stop offshore drilling auction on federal land and water. Interior cancelled these leases in the end, saying that the delays were caused by “conflicting court rulings.”

Joe Manchin was one of the main people behind the Inflation Reduction Act. He wrote parts of the law that say the Interior Department must hold the offshore drilling auction in the Gulf and Cook Inlet in Alaska. The sale on Wednesday won’t be the last one; there will be another one in September.

Young voters and environmental groups were very upset about the offshore drilling auction project on social media. In the end, the administration said it didn’t have many other choices but to approve the project. Biden said that approving Willow was a “tough choice” and that he had been leaning towards blocking it at first.

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