Biden announces wind turbine plan for oil-rich Gulf of Mexico

Jennifer A. Dlouhy July 20, 2022

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden announced plans to advance offshore wind power in the Gulf of Mexico and in Atlantic waters near the Southeast U.S., part of a bid to prove he’s confronting the climate crisis despite a congressional logjam on the issue.

National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito said restoring U.S. energy security must include the resumption of domestic offshore oil and gas leasing, which did not happen with Biden’s Wednesday announcement of Executive Actions on Climate to Address Extreme Heat and Boost Offshore Wind.

"Our country is in dire need of a cohesive national energy policy. The opportunity is before us to produce reliable, affordable, lower carbon, and secure domestic energy,” Milito said. “We can only get there through an all-of-the-above approach, which must include the resumption of domestic offshore oil and gas leasing. On a positive note, the Administration continues to promote investment in the offshore wind sector, and the full supply chain of the offshore energy industry is well-positioned for the build-out of the U.S. wind sector. We look forward to advancing projects in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast.”

Companies along the Gulf Coast are innovating durable climate and emissions solutions across the wide spectrum of energy sectors, he said.

“Resuming Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leasing will enable continued innovation, including the build-out of American offshore wind, and will reduce the need to secure our energy from foreign, higher emitting sources."

Biden unveiled the offshore wind efforts in Massachusetts Wednesday as he sought to reinvigorate an environmental agenda damaged by Senator Joe Manchin’s decision to withdraw support for broad climate change and spending legislation. Biden cast his offshore wind moves as the first in a series of steps to combat the mounting climate crisis through presidential powers that aren’t tethered to Congress.

“We’re going to make sure that the ocean is open for the clean energy of our future,” Biden said in a speech. There is “a real opportunity to power millions of additional homes from wind.” 

The president spoke from a shuttered coal plant in Massachusetts that’s now primed to serve as a manufacturing hub for subsea power cables needed to bring offshore wind power to shore. Biden cast the site as an embodiment of the green transition and the potential to unlock economic opportunity and new jobs by shifting toward cleaner energy sources.

Biden is directing federal regulators to propose the first wind energy areas for development in the Gulf of Mexico -- a first step toward auctioning leases to build the renewable projects in the basin that has for decades been a prime source of US oil and gas.

Biden has laid out a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, with auctions of territory near California expected later this year, and, ultimately, lease sales on almost every US coast

Biden also is directing Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to advance wind development in waters off the Southeast US, including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Former President Donald Trump had withdrawn those areas from offshore energy leasing -- potentially ruling out new wind projects as well as oil exploration in the region -- after an outcry from coastal residents concerned about potential drilling off their shores. 

However, Biden stopped short of issuing an order that would attempt to reverse that Trump leasing moratorium. That move would be legally vulnerable and could be unnecessary in the face of action by Congress, where the House of Representatives last week passed a measure to restore wind leasing in the region. 

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