The U.S. government is facing backlash after auctioning off an Italy-sized portion of the country: ‘Sad to see’

In March, the Biden administration authorized a huge area of the Gulf of Mexico to be auctioned to oil companies for oil and gas drilling, the Guardian reported.

The parcel is called lease 259, according to the Guardian. It stretches from the southern tip of Texas to the Alabama-Florida border, covering 73.3 million acres, an area as large as Italy. An auction for a similarly sized parcel — lease 261 at 67 million acres — is scheduled for the end of September.

The first 1.6 million acres of lease 259 were put up for auction in March. Thirty-two oil companies bid a total of $309.7 million for the license to drill in the region at the Department of the Interior’s auction, the Guardian reports.

It is expected that the companies who win the rights to lease 259 will drill in the area for the next 50 years, producing 1 billion barrels of oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, the Guardian says.

According to the Biden administration, this auction is required by the terms of the recent Inflation Reduction Act, the Guardian reports. While the bill made strides in shifting the U.S. to more affordable and cleaner sources of energy, it included compromises with the oil industry.

However, according to the Guardian, while Biden was required to allow some drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, he was not forced to sign over such a huge area. “If this continues, all of the good Biden has done for the future will be undone by Biden himself,” Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Guardian.

The massive drilling projects being planned in the Gulf of Mexico will cause two major problems, the Guardian explains. First, the drilling itself will cause pollution that will impact both the ocean environment and the Gulf Coast. This area was heavily damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and more drilling could lead to a repeat of the disaster.

Second, the fuel extracted from the region will pollute the air. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said governments around the globe are using too many of these polluting fuel sources, the Guardian reports. At the current rate, the world will pass the recommended limit on carbon air pollution before 2030. Governments need to cut back — and the recent auction is a step backward.

“Sad to see,” said one commenter on Reddit.

Another user added, “So how’s the public opinion on the BP spill these days? They forgot? Good, do it again.”

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