On Wednesday’s livestreamed auction, the Biden administration auctioned ​off rights to 1.7 million acres of federally owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from oil and gas companies eager to begin drilling, to the ire of environmental groups all across the country.

The Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Lease Sale 257 saw 33 companies submit 317 bids for 308 tracts, totaling nearly 2,700 square miles according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).​ It marked the largest total acreage and second-highest bid total from a government auction since Gulf-wide bidding resumed in 2017.

It was just four days after the Biden administration signed the COP26 pact, that the president allowed the auction to take place.  The COP26 pact, requires countries to eliminate subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Yet even as Biden has tried to cajole other world leaders into strengthening international efforts against global warming, including at this month’s climate talks in Scotland, he’s had difficulty gaining ground on climate issues at home.

The auction came after attorneys general from Republican states successfully sued in federal court to lift a suspension on federal oil and gas sales that Biden imposed when he took office.

Driving the heightened interest are a rebound in oil prices and uncertainty about the future of the government leasing program after Biden campaigned on pledges to end drilling on federally owned lands and waters, which include the Gulf, industry analysts said.

What is making the climate change allies upset is Biden’s campaign promise to ban new oil and gas leasing. The Biden administration previously pledged to ban new oil and gas leasing on public land and water. Environmental groups say the auction is undermining President Joe Biden’s green credentials.

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