Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

Why Biden's Interior Department isn't Shutting Down Oil and Gas

| July 23, 2021

We're now six months into the Biden administration and, despite some very encouraging climate action and refreshing candor about the urgency of the climate crisis, some observers have started to grumble that the White House has not yet demonstrated the hoped-for climate ambition, particularly as regards oil and gas extraction on our shared public lands, the purview of the Department of the Interior. Indeed, oil and gas permitting at the Interior Department has continued apace, if not increased: Multiple new fossil energy projects have gotten the greenlight, and early messaging from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland suggests that the existing ban on new leasing may not stand. All of this at a time of record-setting heat waves and a warming trend in which the past seven years are the hottest years on record — and likely some of the coolest years I will see for the rest of my lifetime.

Why, during a widely-recognized climate emergency, has the Interior Department not acted more decisively to limit emissions from federal lands — the source of nearly one-quarter of our nation's carbon emissions?

Are there former Trump administration lackeys in the agency sneaking permits through the system? No, the permitting process is under a lot of scrutiny right now.

Is the Biden team at Interior ambivalent about the climate crisis? Certainly not, as individuals they know what must be done and are eager to do it.

Is the resurgence in the price of crude oil driving an automatic increase in permitting on federal lands? No, the agency has considerable discretion over leasing and permitting processes. So, what gives?...

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Clement, Joel.“Why Biden's Interior Department isn't Shutting Down Oil and Gas.” The Hill, July 23, 2021.