By Samantha Fields

The Joe Biden administration has auctioned off $192 million worth of new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced this week. Exxon, Shell, Chevron and others bought up 1.7 million acres in all.

Blocking new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters was one of the president’s campaign promises on climate. And he did, temporarily, right after he took office.

But in June — after more than a dozen states sued — a federal judge in Louisiana ordered that the lease sales start again.

Companies won’t start producing oil and gas on the acres they bought this week for a while. More likely, production would start in seven to 10 years.

“And that’s exactly when we need to be well along the way of moving away from a fossil fuel energy economy,” said Drew Caputo, an attorney with Earthjustice, a public interest environmental law firm that’s suing the Biden administration over the sale.

Reducing demand for oil in transportation and the rest of the economy would make a much bigger difference than blocking new oil and gas leases, said Ryan Kellogg, a professor of public policy at the University of Chicago.

“That means incentives in technology development to develop alternative modes of transportation away from the cars and trucks that we’re used to,” he said.

And it means doing that at scale, Kellogg said, in a way that can be exported to the rest of the world.

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