Obama to Open 38 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Offshore Drilling

Not two years since the BP spill shook the Gulf of Mexico, Obama will sell $4 billion worth of leases to oil companies keen on drilling in the region.

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Obama promised to open 75% of available land in the United States to offshore drilling. Today, he's making good on his word. In two separate speeches, the president will announce the details of a plan that will put 38 million acres up for leasing for oil and gas drilling.

According to a fact sheet released from the White House, the Obama administration plans to sell the leases for 7,250 blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. And according to the White House, the sale "could result in the production of 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas."

Daniel Weiss, writing at Climate Progress, notes that the leases "could raise nearly $4 billion if companies lease every available acre," and that the "leases will stipulate that companies must develop these areas promptly or risk losing them, which should increase oil and gas production."

The move is perhaps designed to demonstrate to the fossil fuels industry that despite denying the Keystone XL, Obama is still an oil and gas supporter. So might it also mean that his 'Sputnik moment' for on clean energy has sputtered out?

Obama will also be making more specific announcements about ramping up natural gas production and use, so stay tuned for further details.

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