Democratic Sens. Kelly, Manchin press Biden over Gulf oil leases

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FIRST ON FOX: Sens. Mark Kelly and Joe Manchin are pressing President Biden to encourage oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to help ease Americans’ long-term pain at the pumps.

The comments from Kelly, D-Ariz., and Manchin, D-W.Va., come as American energy production is put into sharp focus amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. The war exposed Europe’s reliance on Russian energy and highlighted the geopolitical importance of fossil fuels.

“Americans are facing record-level gasoline prices every day when they commute to work, drive their children to school and buy groceries and medicine,” the senators said in a letter to Biden Friday. “The additional disruptions in the oil market caused by Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine could drive prices up even further.”

“We support your decision to coordinate a release of crude oil from the emergency reserves of International Energy Agency members but believe more must be done to provide relief to Americans facing rising costs for everything from gas to groceries,” they added. 

The senators asked Biden to establish a “five-year program” to sell oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, similar to one established by the Obama administration. But a new plan is not set to be rolled out by the time the Obama plan expires, according to Bloomberg, and the president’s budget this week doesn’t appear to include oil and gas leasing revenues in the Gulf until at least fall 2023.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., speaks during a press conference following the weekly Democratic caucus policy luncheon Feb. 8, 2022, in Washington, D.C. 
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Kelly and Manchin also ask Biden to continue processing oil and gas leases while a new five-year plan is in the works. 

“Advancing Gulf production does not mean our nation must abandon its climate goals,” the senators said. “The Gulf of Mexico is among the lowest greenhouse gas-emission-intensity oil production sites in the world and would offset foreign imports that are shipped across oceans.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chairs a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the Capitol in Washington Oct. 19, 2021. 
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Allowing energy projects to languish in court or remain suspended in years of bureaucratic limbo is not addressing the pain at the pump or the climate crisis,” Kellly and Manchin added. “The United States can and should increase its renewable energy production and lower its greenhouse gas emissions, but this must occur responsibly, pragmatically and through an all-of-the-above energy approach that takes advantage of our resources at home.”

Immediately after taking office, Biden took several actions that drew harsh criticism. Critics claimed he was handicapping the United States’ energy independence with a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. 

President Biden points to the Oval Office of the White House as he arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn in Washington Nov. 21, 2021.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A federal court last June ruled the pause violated multiple federal statutes, and the administration did eventually auction some Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases last year before that sale was blocked by a court. 

And Thursday, Biden announced that the U.S. will release one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months in an effort to curb rising energy prices. The president also blamed energy companies for rising prices. Kelly and Manchin said they support the decision. 

Critics of the administration say federal agencies are not taking actions to assure it’s worthwhile to invest in American energy. 

“We need capital to be able to develop these assets. And certainly, while that is the choice of the investors, the rhetoric coming from the administration and everything that is anti-fossil fuel informs those choices,” Energy Workforce and Technology Council CEO Leslie Beyer told Fox News Digital last month. 

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