The Biden administration is facing new scrutiny after quietly updating a federal database, which showed that they have approved fewer oil and gas drilling permits than previously reported.
The Bureau of Land Management, a subagency of the Department of the Interior, stated that the current number of approved permits to drill (APD) on federal lands is less than 6,700, down from an estimated 9,000.
This revision was blamed on a reporting discrepancy resulting from a transition to a new database in mid-2020.
This revelation suggests that President Joe Biden and administration officials had overstated the extent to which oil and gas companies have neglected producing on approved permits amid the global energy crisis last year.
The White House had repeatedly touted the 9,000-permit figure and argued that the industry had the ability to immediately begin producing.
This change has come under fire from Republicans, who have criticized the administration’s restrictions on federal fossil fuel leasing amid all-time high gasoline prices. They have accused the Biden administration of misleading the public about the number of unused permits available to the oil and gas industry.
Republicans have pointed out that oil production on federal lands fell to 12.28 million barrels per day in November, the latest month with data, and that production peaked at 13 million barrels a day under the Trump administration.
The American Petroleum Institute’s senior vice president of policy, economics, and regulatory affairs, Frank Macchiarola, called on the administration to support American production with a comprehensive strategy for American energy development.
This includes a final five-year program for offshore leasing and quarterly onshore lease sales. Macchiarola emphasized that the U.S. natural gas and oil industry is confronting the global energy crisis by continuing to work to meet the energy needs of U.S. consumers and allies abroad.
The Biden administration has also dragged its feet on oil and gas lease sales, only holding sales when directed by either federal courts or the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Department of the Interior has delayed issuing a five-year plan for offshore drilling, and it is considering a complete block on such leasing through 2028.
Despite the revision to the number of approved permits to drill, a Biden administration official downplayed the alteration.
The official stated that the record profits made by oil companies in 2022 and the thousands of approved but unused drilling permits they are sitting on shows that nothing is getting in the way of increasing oil production except for the industry’s decision to funnel their profits into the pockets of shareholders and executives.
The discrepancy in the number of approved permits to drill highlights the need for greater transparency from the Biden administration. Republicans are calling on the administration to provide more information on their energy policies and to take concrete steps to support American production.