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US kicks off a spate of oil and gas auctions just as COP28 gets underway

The Biden administration on Tuesday will auction off 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) of land in Wyoming to oil and gas drillers, the first in a series of such sales that will coincide with a United Nations’ conference aimed at combating fossil fuel-driven climate change in Dubai.

The Interior Department’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will offer 63 drilling parcels on nearly 44,000 acres (17,806 hectares) in six Western states over the next two weeks. The Wyoming sale is by far the largest, with 37 parcels.

The remaining acreage, in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, North Dakota and Utah, will be sold on Nov. 30, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12. All the sales will be held on the online auction platform EnergyNet.

The UN’s “Conference of the Parties” on climate, known as COP 28, will begin on Thursday and will take place over the same two weeks. Dozens of nations plan to push for the world’s first deal to phase out carbon dioxide-emitting coal, oil and gas at the meeting. U.S. President Joe Biden is not expected to attend.

An Interior spokesperson did not comment on the timing of the sales.

Environmental groups were critical of the sales.

“Instead of doing the necessary work to fight climate change, Biden continues to support the expansion of fossil fuels here in the U.S.,” Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

U.S. oil extraction policies have been a headache for President Biden, who promised on the campaign trail to end new leasing on federal lands and waters, but was blocked by courts from doing so.

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a climate change law passed last year, made oil and gas auctions a prerequisite for renewable energy development. It also, however, requires higher royalty rates and minimum bids meant to boost taxpayer returns.

Biden’s Interior Department has issued far fewer new leases than previous administrations. The agency issued 527 leases in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 combined, compared with 2,740 in the previous two years, during the Trump administration, according to BLM data.
Source: Reuters

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