After a massive rise in the number of drilling permits approved in 2021, the total number has plunged to some of the lowest levels ever in 2022, all on the watch of the Biden Administration.
Politico reports that after the previous high of 643 permits that were issued by the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in April of 2021, just 95 permits were approved in January of this year. The sudden shift reflects the wildly different approaches taken by the Trump Administration and the Biden Administration when it comes to domestic energy production.
While President Donald Trump supported unlimited domestic production in order to establish national energy independence, Biden pledged to reduce the production of fossil fuels in order to combat “global warming,” and instead has tried to promote so-called “green” energy alternatives. But the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the impacts on the global energy market, has forced Biden to consider restarting domestic production in order to offset rising gas prices.
In February, 186 drilling permits were approved by the DOI. Although much higher than the January total, it was still the fourth-lowest amount of monthly permits issued since Biden took office.
DOI spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz, when asked about the massive drop in permit approvals, claimed that “the BLM continues to process applications for permit to drill in a timely manner.”
Biden and others in the administration have been claiming, with no evidence, that many oil companies have already had their permits approved but are simply not using them.
“The oil and gas industry has millions of acres leased … they could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year,” said Biden in a press conference. “They are not using them for production now. That’s their decision.”
But Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, explained how many companies might not be able to start drilling immediately even with an approved permit. “Just because Acme O&G isn’t using a permit right away doesn’t mean that ABC O&G doesn’t need one for a well it’s planning to drill now,” she explained.
“If the federal permitting situation weren’t so inefficient and fraught with political interference,” she continued, “companies wouldn’t need to request a large inventory even years in advance.”
Gas prices were already rising rapidly prior to the Russian invasion on February 24th, primarily due to Biden’s decision to halt virtually all oil and gas leases on federal lands. After the first round of sanctions against Russia failed to include its energy sector, Biden caved to pressure and banned all further imports of Russian oil. In an attempt to counter the costs of such a ban, Biden has tried to negotiate increased purchases of energy from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, although his phone calls to the heads of state in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been ignored.