Federal Leasing of Gulf Waters for Fossil Fuels Meet Protests

by Max Breitbarth

While the United States publicly seeks to shift its energy usage to greener sources, a recent New Orleans federal auction—and the protests created in response—demonstrate that the United States is far from over its oil addiction. CNN’s John D. Sutter details the scene at an auction at New Orleans’ Superdome, where environmental protesters objected to the government’s lease of federal property in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel development.

The auction is one of many battlegrounds where environmental activists and oil industry representatives clash over land use. Sutter says that these auctions, which are often discreetly held, complicate Obama’s legacy as a president who wishes to be remembered as a champion of the environment. While the administration has put a temporary hold on renewing coal project leases on federal land, the Gulf of Mexico is not off the table for its rich oil resources. In the shadow of the COP21 climate agreements, these auctions indicate that the US still prioritizes short-term economic gains over shifting to renewable energy sources.

After the BP oil spill in 2010, many new projects have been met with increased scrutiny. The protestors who interrupted the New Orleans auction were members of local communities affected by the spill and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which may increase in strength and frequency if global temperatures continue to climb. New Orleans resident Jenna deBoisblanc stated that it was her experience with Katrina and Hurricane Sandy in New York that led to her decision to become an activist. She is part of an increasingly vocal community that hopes the government may change its behavior to match its post-COP21 rhetoric.

While activists continue to fight back against future oil projects, the government will likely continue its practice of leasing federal territory. As long as fossil fuel development continues, verbal commitments to clean energy will lack substance.


Sutter, John D. “Maybe stop selling the ocean?” CNN. 24 March 2016. Web. http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/24/opinions/sutter-new-orleans-climate-auction/index.html





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