Climate Change /

Biden Approves More Oil and Gas Drilling On Public Land Than Trump

'From an environmentalist's point of view, this doesn't look great for Biden,' said one author of the study

It has become apparent that the Biden administration has approved more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands per month than the Trump administration.

This comes in stark contrast with the actions during the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to an analysis conducted by Public Citizen.

The report by Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group, illustrates that President Biden has not acted on his promise to reverse Trump’s fossil-fuel-friendly agenda. These actions seem to come despite Biden’s campaign promise to push for “no more drilling on federal lands” because of his focus on climate change.

The analysis looked at data from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which processes applications for drilling permits on public lands. The primary findings of the analysis were:

  • During Biden’s first year in office so far, BLM has approved an average of 333 drilling permits per month. That figure is more than 35% higher than Trump’s first year in office, when BLM approved an average of 245 drilling permits per month.
  • That number is also higher than the monthly average in 2018 (279 permits) and 2019 (284 permits), but lower than the monthly average in 2020 (452 permits), when oil companies stockpiled permits in the final months of the Trump administration.
  • Under Biden, monthly permit approvals peaked at 652 in April but have started to trend downward in the second half of 2021.
  • (When analyzing Biden’s first year in office, the group excluded January 2021, when Trump was in office for most of the month. Similarly, when analyzing Trump’s first year in office, it excluded January 2017, when Barack Obama was president for most of the month.)

“From an environmentalist’s point of view, this doesn’t look great for Biden,” said Alan Zibel, an author of the analysis and the research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project.

Jamie Henn, an organizer with the Build Back Fossil Free coalition, said the findings highlight his frustrations with the Biden administration. 

“The president has basically only tried to tackle one side of the climate problem,” Henn said. “He’s talked a lot about building clean energy, but he hasn’t done anything to stop fossil fuels. And you need to tackle both sides if we’re going to address this crisis.”

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