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President Biden made ending oil and gas drilling a central climate promise of his campaign. So why did he just authorize a handful of new offshore drilling lease sales?

Joe Biden holding a microphone to speak in front of a large American flag.
Joe Biden Credit: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Last week, Biden released his long-awaited five-year oil and gas production plan. It includes three new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, and none in Alaska — and it has left both environmentalists and fossil fuel proponents unhappy.

Three leases over five years marks a record low offering from the federal government, and is pretty much the opposite of what oil and gas companies wanted to see. They contend fewer leases will slow fossil fuel production, and drive prices higher as the country relies on foreign imports. Environmental advocates, meanwhile, say the plan flies in the face of Biden’s promise of “no more drilling on federal lands, period.”

But there’s at least one climate-conscious reason the White House offered fossil fuel leases at all. The Biden administration made many concessions to get Sen. Joe Manchin’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, and trading a few oil and gas leases was key to getting offshore wind leases authorized in the Gulf.

As Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, put it to the Washington Post, it’s all part of the “delicate dance” Biden has to navigate as he looks to take strong climate action while running up against a “conservative Supreme Court, a hostile House of Representatives and a divided Senate.”

More clean energy news

🤔 Aluminum’s climate paradox: A new report calls out aluminum production’s huge greenhouse gas emissions footprint — a “paradox” considering the metal is a crucial component in solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. (Inside Climate News)

🔋 What’s blocking batteries? While battery storage development reached a record high in the last quarter, developers had to delay more than 2,000 MW of additional deployment because of grid interconnection issues, rising costs and other challenges. (Inside Climate News)

🗳️ Survey says: More than two-thirds of Americans say they’d be fine living near a wind or solar farm, according to a new poll, suggesting headline-grabbing local opposition in some areas doesn’t reflect the country’s views overall. (Washington Post)

🔎 Well plugging problems: The small, niche oil and gas well plugging industry faces new challenges in finding and filling wells abandoned for decades. (Grist)

🌞 Underestimating clean energy wins: Current climate models underestimate how “plummeting” prices for solar and storage could drive a quicker net-zero transition, researchers find. (Utility Dive)

👩‍🏭 EV worries drive UAW strikers: Striking UAW members say they’re worried electric vehicles will eliminate their jobs, and express uncertainty that federal government action — from President Biden or a future Republican administration — will help. (E&E News)

🤝 Meanwhile: Environmental groups will join striking UAW members on the picket lines this week as they push for a just transition to electric vehicles. (E&E News)

🚰 Mining’s water dilemma: Indigenous and environmental advocates worry that a rush to mine so-called green metals — used in electric vehicles, batteries and other clean energy technology — could stress water supplies in the arid West. (NPR) 

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.