Atlantic, Arctic: US to consider return to offshore drilling

Biden took office last year after the campaign mud battle against Donald Trump with big climate promises. He said he wants to continue and intensify the environmental protection plans that Obama started in the White House. By the end of the decade, the US should at least halve its greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 levels. Now the important climate projects seem threatened on several fronts.

Only on Thursday did the US Supreme Court put a serious damper on Biden’s climate policy and significantly restricted the powers of the environmental agency. It was specifically about coal-fired power plants and the question of the extent to which the authority is allowed to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. The verdict of the conservative judges, some of whom were appointed by Trump: The environmental agency is not authorized to make decisions with such far-reaching consequences.

AP/Evan Vucci

Biden took office with a climate protection promise. Now he might have to deviate from the path.

Another major setback for the ambitious climate plans are the Ukraine war and the high energy prices. Like Europe, the US is now feverishly looking for remedies. A plan presented by the Interior Ministry provides for possible drilling mainly in the Gulf of Mexico – but also off the coast of Alaska, as US media reported on Friday (local time). The Interior Department’s five-year plan includes developing new oil and gas fields off the coast of the United States.

restrictions considered

However, the ministry’s proposals also include the option of forgoing new offshore drilling. It also proposes possible auctions of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. The plan exempts public waters on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from drilling.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland has stressed that the plan is not final, the Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, the plan restricts the areas eligible for oil and gas leases compared to the 2018 plan proposed under ex-President Donald Trump.

Years of dispute over offshore drilling

As one of the first acts in the Oval Office, Biden imposed a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling on federally owned land and also announced a temporary halt to drilling in the Arctic. In the same decree, he also set the goal of placing at least 30 percent of public land and water under protection by 2030.

Shortly before leaving office, Obama had tried to tie his successor Trump’s hands on marine protection: he had declared large areas in the Arctic and Atlantic to be protected zones for which no new licenses for oil and gas drilling may be issued. Trump himself later allowed production in a nature reserve in Alaska, but extended the ban on offshore drilling around Florida – Trump’s state of residence.

Oil drilling increases the risk of oil spilling into the sea in large quantities. Most recently, there was a devastating oil spill off California in 2021 after hundreds of thousands of liters of crude oil flowed from a pipeline.

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