White House cancels gas lease sales as fuel prices rise

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White House cancels gas lease sales as fuel prices rise

The Biden administration has canceled oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet — dealing a blow to potential domestic fuel protection as gas prices reach new highs across the country. 

The Interior Department told The Post Thursday that the Cook Inlet lease sale would not move forward because of a “lack of industry interest in leasing in the area.” 

In the Gulf of Mexico, the department canceled two lease sales, citing “conflicting court rulings that impacted work on these proposed sales.”

As of Thursday morning, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas stood at $4.418, according to AAA — the highest on record and $1.41 higher than at this time last year.

Biden imposed a moratorium on the sale of new leases one week after his inauguration, but the order was later blocked by a Louisiana federal judge who granted a preliminary injunction to 13 states that claimed they would suffer “irreparable injury” from the White House move.

Joe Biden.
President Biden has blamed high gas prices on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Matt Marton/EPA

Last month, the Interior Department announced it was restarting the sale of oil and gas leases on federal land, but reduced the amount of land under consideration by 80% and increased the amount of royalties energy companies would have to pay the government if they extracted anything of value.

For weeks, the Biden administration has blamed high gas prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — which prompted the halt of all US gas and oil imports from Russia. The administration has also accused energy companies of not taking advantage of already approved oil drilling permits. 

According to the Interior Department, as of Thursday “there are 10.9 million acres of offshore federal waters already under lease to industry. Of those, the industry is not producing on more than three-quarters (75.75% of 8.26 million acres).” 

Unused oil rigs sit in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Interior Department canceled two oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lee Celano/REUTERS

Republicans and energy industry representatives blasted the canceled lease sales.

“Yesterday, Americans paid the highest price for gasoline in history,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “At the same time Biden just canceled our largest pending American oil & gas lease sale.”

“Gas prices are at a record high, and Biden just canceled oil and gas leases in Alaska and the Gulf,” added Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). “Joe Biden is directly responsible for the high cost of gas.”

“Joe Biden just canceled oil and gas leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico,” Pennsylvania US Senate GOP candidate Carla Sands chimed in. “It’s almost like the Biden administration WANTS gas prices to go higher.”

Man pumps gas.
As of Thursday morning, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas stood at $4.418.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“The President has spoken about the need for additional supplies in the market, but his administration has failed to take action to match that rhetoric,” Frank Macchairola of the American Petroleum Institute told CBS News, calling the cancellations “another example of the administration’s lack of commitment to oil and gas development in the US.”

“In the kind of price environment that we’re seeing, there are negative consequences to shutting off oil and gas development, both politically and practically,” he added. 

If the administration had moved forward with the Alaskan lease, it would have covered more than 1 million acres, according to The Hill. Wednesday’s decision is not the first time leases in the area have been canceled, with the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy scrapping some in 2006, 2008 and 2010 due to lack of industry interest. 

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