In Deep Water: 112 Million Acres of Gulf of Mexico Leased for Oil Drilling in 2014

Photo by Spc. Casey WareIt has been nearly four years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and ensuing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and neither the dirty energy industry nor politicians in Washington, D.C., have learned anything from that tragedy. Even with new evidence showing that the entire ecosystem in the Gulf has been disrupted as a result of the oil spill, companies are about to receive a massive gift in the form of new oil drilling leases.

Both the Interior Department and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have agreed to lease 40 million acres of water space in the Gulf of Mexico next month to support President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, which is quickly beginning to look more like a “drill, baby, drill” policy.  The leases will be good for five years’ worth of exploration in the Gulf.

PennEnergy explains the President’s legacy so far with regards to energy production:

Domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled.

While PennEnergy says that renewable energy use has doubled under Obama, it currently stands at only 9 percent of total energy consumption, a rather paltry amount when compared to dirty energy consumption.

As mentioned above, the Gulf of Mexico is still reeling from the effects of the 2010 BP oil disaster.  The latest reports coming from the region show that scientists are finding high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chemicals that are found in crude oil. These chemicals are now making their way up the food chain and causing disruption to cardiac rhythms in marine life in addition to causing tumors and reproductive abnormalities. 

Earlier this year, the BOEM leased 72 million acres in the Gulf for drilling, and the upcoming leases will bring that to a grand total of 112 million acres in just the first three months of this year. The federal government has pulled in more than $1 billion from Gulf drilling lease sales this year.

And even though they are responsible for the current disaster taking place beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, BP wants in on the leasing action. BP's ability to bid on federal contracts in the Gulf was suspended in late 2012 after the company agreed to plead guilty to charges of manslaughter, environmental crime, and obstruction of Congress.  But time heals all wounds, and BP America chairman John Minge says that his group is very close to making a deal with the EPA that would once again allow them to buy new drilling leases in the Gulf. 

The decision to lease tens of millions of acres in the Gulf next month — on top of the tens of millions that have already been sold this year — is proof that the Obama administration has abandoned its “all of the above” energy policies, and instead pursued policies which greatly benefit the dirty energy industry while leaving the American public and the environment at an unnecessary and severe risk.

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