The Biden Administration on Tuesday announced the successful sale of oil and gas drilling rights in Wyoming, generating $3.4 million. This sale marks the first in a series that coincides with the United Nations’ conference in Dubai, focused on addressing climate change driven by fossil fuels.
In this auction, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the Interior Department, put forward 37 parcels covering 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) in Wyoming. Of these, bids were received for only 18 tracts, spanning 21,500 acres. The Wyoming sale is the largest in the BLM’s plan, which aims to offer 63 drilling parcels on nearly 44,000 acres (17,806 hectares) across six Western states over the following two weeks.
The highlight of the Wyoming auction was a 720-acre parcel in Converse County, fetching $2.6 million, nearly 80% of the auction’s total high bids, as per a Reuters analysis. The details of the winning bidders remain undisclosed.
Further sales are scheduled in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, North Dakota, and Utah on November 30, December 5, and December 12. These sales are taking place concurrently with the UN’s “Conference of the Parties” (COP 28) on climate change, which commences on Thursday. The conference, spanning two weeks, will see global efforts to negotiate the first agreement targeting a phase-out of coal, oil, and gas, which are significant sources of carbon dioxide emissions. Notably, U.S. President Joe Biden is not expected to attend this conference.
The timing of these sales has not been addressed by the Interior spokesperson. However, environmental groups have expressed strong criticism. Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager for Friends of the Earth, accused the Biden administration of perpetuating fossil fuel expansion in the U.S., contrary to the required efforts to combat climate change.
President Biden’s approach to U.S. oil extraction policies has been fraught with challenges. Despite campaign promises to end new leasing on federal lands and waters, he faced legal barriers in implementing this policy. Moreover, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed last year, which is also a climate change law, mandates oil and gas auctions as a precondition for renewable energy development. This law, however, introduces higher royalty rates and minimum bids, aiming to enhance taxpayer returns.
Compared to previous administrations, Biden’s Interior Department has issued significantly fewer new leases. In fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the agency granted 527 leases, a sharp drop from the 2,740 leases issued during the preceding two years under the Trump administration, as per BLM data. This shift underscores the administration’s complex stance on balancing energy needs with climate commitments.