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Republicans Slam Biden for Canceling Oil Lease Sales Amid Record Gas Prices

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/12/2022 Darragh Roche
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about inflation and the economy in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. Republicans have slammed the Biden administration for canceling the sale of oil and gas drilling leases. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about inflation and the economy in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. Republicans have slammed the Biden administration for canceling the sale of oil and gas drilling leases.

Republicans have slammed the Biden administration's decision to cancel the sale of an oil and gas drilling lease for an area in Alaska of more than one million acres amid record-high gas prices.

The Department of the Interior will not proceed with the sale of a lease for the Cook Inlet in Alaska with an official telling CBS News on Wednesday that "a lack of industry interest in leasing in the area" was the reason for the decision.

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The department has also canceled the sale of two other leases in the Gulf of Mexico because of "conflicting court rulings that impacted work on these proposed lease sales."

Republicans were quick to criticize the decision and cited the high price of gas. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reported that the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was more than $4.40 on Wednesday.

That's a new record high, which was previously set in March at $4.33 per gallon. High gas prices are one of the most visible signs of persistently high inflation.

Some Republicans argued that canceling the sale of leases would do nothing to alleviate gas prices and could even push prices up.

U.S. Representative Beth Van Duyne of Texas' 24th district tweeted: "Biden chooses to further cut American energy production and drive our gas prices higher. Folks, they are doing this ON PURPOSE and do not care what it costs our families!!"

Her party colleague, U.S. Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan's 3rd district, wrote: "Absolute idiocy. The immediate alternative to US oil and gas production isn't renewables—it's Saudi, Venezuelan, and other foreign oil/gas E&P that emits way more greenhouse gas-trapping methane & sends profits oversees."

Meijer also accused President Joe Biden of "keeping solar more expense w/ tariffs."

In February, the Biden administration announced it would extend Trump-era tariffs on solar energy equipment for four years.

"If the Biden Administration was serious about lowering gas prices, they would drill for American oil," tweeted U.S. Representative Lisa McClain of Michigan's 10th district.

Former Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in, tweeting: "Gas Prices are the Highest Ever Recorded and the Biden administration cancels an Alaska oil and gas lease sale? This has got to stop. Unleash American Energy Joe!"

Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for former President Donald Trump, shared CBS News' story about the sale cancellation and added: "It's intentional."

Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a Republican nominee for the House in Ohio's 13th district, wrote: "Is $5/gallon not enough for you, ⁦@JoeBiden⁩? This decision will push us even farther away from energy independence. Horrible decision!"

Inflation and gas prices are likely to be major topics in the upcoming midterm elections.

The Department of the Interior is legally required to adhere to a five-year leasing plan for auctioning offshore leases. The current plan is due to expire at the end of June.

The sale of leases has been canceled in the same area in Alaska before, with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management canceling sales in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those cancellations also cited a lack of interest from the industry, according to The Hill. Before 2011, the bureau's functions were covered by the now dissolved Minerals Management Service.

Oil and gas production is a complicated and lengthy process and new drilling has significant start-up costs. Drilling an offshore well can take three to four months, according to an Investopedia report in March, while more complex projects can take up to a year.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

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