In the wake of climate negotiations, the United States is preparing a giant crude oil auction in the Gulf | MCU Times

In the wake of climate negotiations, the United States is preparing a giant crude oil auction in the Gulf

By Matthew Brown and Janet McConnaughey | Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – The US Department of the Interior will on Wednesday auction off huge oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, estimated to hold up to 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil, the first sale of this kind under President Joe Biden and a warning of the challenges he is about to reach. climate targets that depend on deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

The livestreamed sale invited energy companies to bid on leases across about 136,000 square miles (352,000 square miles) – about twice the area of ​​Florida.

It will take years to develop the leases before companies start pumping crude oil. This means they can continue to produce long after 2030, with scientists saying the world must be well on its way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The auction comes after a federal judge in a lawsuit brought by Republican states rejected a suspension of sales of fossil fuels that Biden imposed when he first took office.

The Democrat campaigned on promises to limit fossil fuels from public spaces and waters, which including coal account for about a quarter of U.S. carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But while he has tried to persuade other world leaders to strengthen international efforts against global warming, Wednesday’s sales illustrate Biden’s difficulties in gaining ground on climate issues at home.

Last week, the administration proposed another round of oil and gas leasing sales in 2022 in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and other western states. Interior Ministry officials continued despite concluding that burning the fuels could lead to billions of dollars in potential future climate damage.

“We had Trump’s unrestricted approach to oil and gas in federal lands and Biden’s early attempts to halt drilling. Now it looks like the Biden administration is trying to find a new policy,” said researcher Robert Johnston of Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy.

“They are very careful to undermine their fragile momentum” on climate issues, he added.

The energy agency said in pre-sale documents released Tuesday that it received bids for 307 treaties totaling nearly 2,700 square miles (6,950 square kilometers). This is the largest total for a single sale since bids throughout the Gulf were resumed in 2017. These seven sales have generated nearly $ 1 billion in total revenue.

Environmental assessments of sales in the Gulf of Mexico conducted under former President Donald Trump and confirmed under Biden reached an unlikely conclusion: Extraction and burning of the fuel would result in fewer greenhouse gases than leaving it in the ground.

Similar allegations in two other cases, in Alaska, were rejected by federal courts following challenges from environmentalists. Climate researcher Peter Erickson – whose work was cited by judges in one of the cases – said the Home Office’s analysis had a conspicuous omission: They ruled out increases in greenhouse gases in foreign countries that would result from having more Golf Oil on the market.

“Mathematics is extremely simple on this kind of thing,” said Erickson, a senior researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute, a nonprofit research group. “If new leases expand the global oil supply, it will have a proportionate effect on oil-burning emissions. Therefore, the distribution of these leases in the Gulf of Mexico would increase global emissions.”

The Home Office’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has in recent months changed its emission modeling methods with reference to Erickson’s work. But officials said it was too late to use the new approach to Wednesday’s rental sales, which they said had been through “a rigorous process with specific timelines.”

“The environmental analysis for Lease Sale 257 was already completed and as such does not include the recent approach to considering the effects of foreign consumption of oil and gas,” the agency said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Administration officials rejected AP’s requests for interviews. For upcoming sales, spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said Interior is conducting a more comprehensive emissions review than any previous administration, as it appeals the court order that forced their resumption.

Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said he was unsure that the use of the new approach would have changed the government’s conclusions, as drilling for oil in other parts of the world is less efficient and transporting imports is also increasing. carbon costs. He described the Gulf as “the backbone of U.S. oil production” and said companies see it as a strong investment.

The continued use of the old analysis appreciates opponents who say Biden is not following its climate promises.

“We’re talking about going away from a fossil fuel economy, and they’re selling a giant carbon bomb of a lease,” attorney Drew Caputo told Earthjustice, which has a lawsuit challenging the Gulf lease sale pending in a federal court. ‘It creates a property right to develop those leases. It is much harder to keep the carbon in the ground if you sell the lease. ”

Some Democrats also protested the sale. The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva, said Biden promised to take the lead on climate issues but continues to run a fossil fuel program with a long history of mismanagement.

“The administration needs to do better,” Grijalva said in a statement Tuesday.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 15% of total U.S. crude oil production and 5% of its natural gas.

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