The science is clear: building any new fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with a livable climate. Yet, while President Joe Biden touts the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) as the country’s biggest climate law ever, he’s glossing over all the ways his administration has advanced fossil fuels, including in the IRA.
A slew of White House actions are undermining efforts to address climate change. And under Biden, the country is producing more energy from fossil fuels than it did under former President Donald Trump. In 2022, the U.S. broke its record for most fossil fuels produced in a year. Worse, it’s on track to break that record for 2023.
We know that to stem the tide of climate chaos, we need to move off fossil fuels, period. Instead, the Biden administration has approved and supported several projects that will unleash carbon bombs on our climate and lock in decades of drilling, burning, and emitting.
Here are five of the Biden administration’s biggest carbon bomb approvals.
1. Expanding Drilling Leases in Federal Lands and Waters
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to ban oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. But this promise didn’t last long.
In Biden’s first two years in office, his administration approved more than 6,400 permits for drilling on public lands, outpacing the Trump administration. Most recently, the White House auctioned off 100,000 acres in Wyoming to oil and gas companies.
The administration has also let Big Oil loose on our public waters. The Inflation Reduction Act prevented Biden from leasing any federal waters to offshore wind until he made 60 million acres available for oil and gas. So the administration resurrected two huge, previously canceled sales for offshore oil and gas drilling.
This past spring, it put more than 73 million acres of water in the Gulf of Mexico up for auction to fossil companies. If all the oil and gas there gets used, it would add the equivalent of 941 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. That’s the same emissions as an additional 209.4 million cars on the road for a year.*
Follow all of the Biden administration’s climate decisions with our Biden Climate Watch!
2. Approving the Willow Project in Alaska
The Biden administration’s approval of Willow flew in the face of intense nationwide opposition. The project could last 30 years and pump up to 600 million barrels of oil out of the Northern Slopes of Alaska.
That means an extra 258 million metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere — what 57.4 million cars would emit in a year.
For more perspective, the Center for American Progress compared Willow to the goals Biden set for building renewables on public lands and waters. If those clean energy goals were met, Willow would cancel out all of their climate gains — twice over. Literally one step forward, two steps back.
3. Advancing the Mountain Valley Pipeline
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) should have been dead ages ago. Federal courts have blocked it several times. But Biden didn’t just make way for Senator Joe Manchin to resurrect MVP — his administration has been greasing the wheels as it moves forward.
In May, Biden’s debt ceiling deal included orders for the MVP’s approval, ASAP. And most recently, Biden’s Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to intervene after a lower court blocked construction on part of the pipeline.
MVP would carry up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The production and use of this gas would create the equivalent of 84 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. That’s like adding about 19 million gas-powered cars to our roads.
White House officials have framed MVP as “inevitable” — completely ignoring the role the administration played in pushing it forward. These 84 million metric tons of climate pollution aren’t inevitable. They’re a choice the Biden administration has made.
4. Approving the Disastrous Alaska LNG Project
In 2019, Alaska LNG was all but over. The project proposed to extract and liquefy natural gas, then export it abroad. Though the Trump administration approved the project, its owner couldn’t make it make economic sense and stalled it.
But that changed as oil and gas companies capitalized on global crises to push liquefied natural gas (LNG). Moreover, subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act made the project more viable. Then, the Biden administration pushed it even closer to the finish line with a key approval in April.
Alaska LNG’s climate impact would be monumental, as it’s authorized to export 929 billion cubic feet of gas per year. In addition to emissions throughout the supply chain, just producing and burning this LNG would release the equivalent of 108 million metric tons of CO2 every year for 30 years. That’s about the same as putting 24 million more cars on the road.
The project claims its planned use of carbon capture and storage will make the gas “green.” But we know carbon capture is nothing but an expensive failure. Yet, IRA subsidies for carbon capture could allow the company to snatch up to $600 million in public funds each year.
Speaking of …
5. Boosting the Carbon Capture Scam
Carbon capture and storage is one of Big Oil’s new favorite scams. Boosters call carbon capture climate-friendly, claiming it takes emissions and stores them permanently underground.
But in reality, this technology will lock us into a future with more fossil fuels. That includes the industry’s dirty pipelines, power plants, and refineries. Moreover, carbon capture has so far led to more U.S. emissions, not less.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is promoting the technology through new policy, in addition to billions of dollars worth of subsidies.
This April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules for power plants that rely on carbon capture — even though there are no power plants currently using carbon capture technology. Attaching it to power plants will just allow the same old pollution, only with a smokescreen of “captured emissions.”
Carbon capture won’t stop climate change, but it will boost Big Oil’s profits with public dollars via the IRA and other subsidies. And since 95% of carbon captured in the U.S. is currently used to pull more oil out of the ground, the administration is literally flushing money down oil wells.
We Need Real Climate Action, Not Lip Service
Despite his big talk on climate, when it comes to fossil fuels, President Biden’s policies just build on previous expansion. His administration’s actions risk decades more climate pollution during this tipping point for the fate of our planet. The science has been unequivocal: we need to move off fossil fuels and rapidly transition to renewable energy.
This September, we have a huge opportunity to shout this loud and clear, as a major United Nations climate summit convenes in New York City. While the eyes of the world fall on New York, thousands will gather for the March to End Fossil Fuels before the summit.
This is our chance to communicate clearly to President Biden: the era of fossil fuels must end, and he must use every tool at his disposal to make that happen.
On September 17, we’re gathering with allies to demand that President Biden take the climate crisis seriously. Our planet depends on it.
Learn more about the March to End Fossil Fuels and how you can join our efforts!