The national average gas price for regular unleaded at nearly $4.42 per gallon today - well over $1 more than this time last year, according to gasprices.aaa.com. This week alone, since Monday, May 9, 2022, the price rose by 9 cents. This is in spite of decreased demand which would, typically, lower prices at the pump.
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In spite of the market volatility and climbing prices, President Joe Biden announced on Thursday, May 12, that his administration is canceling the Alaskan Oil & Gas Lease, according to a report from CBSNews.com. The lease would have given companies the opportunity to drill for oil in Cook Inlet, Alaska, an area spanning 1 million acres.
In a statement to CBS News, the Department of the Interior said that there was a "lack of industry interest in leasing in the area."
To auction off-shore leases, the Department of Interior must follow a five-year plan, CBS News reported. The current plan was set to expire at the end of May, and there had been no interest in leasing the land.
Since the land was not currently being leased, the decision does not reduce the amount of crude oil available; it only reduces the potential to mine for oil in the region. However, Frank Macchairola of the American Petroleum Institute called the decision "another example of the administration's lack of commitment to oil and gas development in the U.S."
He told CBS News, "In the kind of price environment that we're seeing, there are negative consequences to shutting off oil and gas development, both politically and practically."
However, the decision does support Biden's commitment to environmental sustainability, as outlined in his Federal Sustainability Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
Leasing the Cook Inlet could have led to the creation of new underwater pipelines and offshore drilling across 1 million acres for more than 40 years. While access to this source of oil may have helped mitigate rising gas prices, it would not have provided immediate relief. Plus, it cuts off one potential avenue to reducing the U.S. dependency on foreign oil.
On the heels of the announcement, the Department of the Interior pointed out that, of the 10.9 million acres of offshore federal waters already under lease, only 25% are being used to produce oil, the New York Post reported.
Republicans in Congress openly tweeted their disagreement with the Biden administration's decision.
"Gas prices are at a record high, and Biden just canceled oil and gas leases in Alaska and the Gulf," tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
The decision may drive gas prices even higher, but a number of other factors - including increased demand sparked by the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend - may also play a role.
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For now, the best course of action for U.S. drivers is to use an app to shop around for lower prices, be mindful that gas stations in specific locations may cost more, pay cash to take advantage of lower pricing, and top off when you see prices drop so you are never stuck with a tank close to "E" when gas prices are trending upward.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Biden Cancels Alaskan Oil & Gas Lease - What Does This Mean for Prices at the Pump?