In June President Biden will have a chance to reinvigorate support for American-produced energy and to protect national parks, wildlife refuges and environmental resources.
Americans are feeling the sting of high gas prices and historic inflation and critics say the administration’s policies contributed to the crisis. Democrats could receive a drubbing in November’s midterm elections.
Much of the criticism is fair. From nixing the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office to declaring a federal oil and gas leasing moratorium, Mr. Biden has stood in the way of American energy production when the country needs it most. Last year the U.S. imported about 672,000 barrels of oil and refined products a day from
Russia, indirectly fueling his war machine.
The administration soon will have an opportunity to change course. In June, the Interior Department’s five-year offshore oil and gas lease program will expire, putting the nation’s future economy and security at risk. The administration should renew Interior’s leasing plan if it is serious about lowering energy prices and decoupling from Russia.
Many Gulf states, such as Texas and Louisiana, rely on the economic benefits of offshore oil and gas production. It supports more than 370,000 U.S. jobs and generates billions in annual tax revenue. In March Mr. Biden made the right call in banning imports of Russian oil. The offshore leasing program directly supplies 15% of domestic crude oil and 2% of natural gas, which are crucial to reducing American reliance on Russian fuel.
As an environmentalist, I have another concern. The leasing program is a vital source of conservation funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF, which Congress created in 1964, protects public lands, improves outdoor recreation opportunities, supports wildlife refuges, and funds pro-environment activities. From national parks to the ranchlands that feed us, the LWCF is involved with every aspect of outdoor life in America.
The LWCF uses no taxpayer dollars and instead relies on money from offshore oil and gas leasing. If the U.S. goes without offshore leasing for the next five years, the government will lose about $1.5 billion a year in revenue. Revenue from the leasing program has enabled more than 40,000 grants to state and local governments to develop outdoor recreation areas across the country.
Recognizing the LWCF’s vital role, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in February urged the Biden administration to increase the program’s funding beyond revenue from the leasing program. This month, four House Democrats wrote to President Biden asking him to renew the five-year offshore leasing plan.
We cannot allow funding for conservation projects to disappear overnight. The revenue from offshore drilling is crucial to the American economy, to our energy security, and to the preservation of our natural and historical landmarks.
Mr. Barnard is national policy director for the American Conservation Coalition.
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