NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government says that, for the first time, it’s broadcasting an oil and gas lease sale live on the internet.
The sale Wednesday offers all 23.8 million acres available for drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast.
At earlier sales, an official from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management read bids to oil company representatives and others in a Superdome ballroom in New Orleans.
A bureau spokeswoman has said protests that disrupted a lease sale in March played a part in the change. But Caryl Fagot (fuh-GOH) said the agency also wants to broaden the audience by opening it to people anywhere.
Last year’s sale for the western Gulf was the smallest ever: $22.7 million in high bids. Five companies bid on 33 tracts, with one bid per tract.
In a demonstration Tuesday at the agency’s local office in suburban Harahan, Louisiana, protesters called for a halt to all new drilling in the Gulf, saying oiland gas contribute to climate change that endangers Louisiana’s coast.
Such “keep it in the ground” policy could eventually cost Gulf Coast states 39,300 jobs in the oil and gas business, plus 27,700 jobs in related businesses, as current leases played out, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report scheduled for release Wednesday.
The report from the chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy estimates that a nationwide halt to new oil, gas and coal production from federal lands would eventually cost more than 100,000 jobs in those industries.
Walter Lane, chair of the department of economics and finance at the University of New Orleans, said the figures “seem the right kind of order of magnitude.”
“This kneejerk ‘keep it in the ground’ makes good sound bites but makes no economic sense,” he said.
What’s needed, he said, is state-by-state analysis of both costs and benefits.