The federal government is the single largest landowner in the country. Yet, for offshore energy developers and their customers, Uncle Sam is an increasingly erratic and unpredictable landlord. Rather than relying on the good graces of the White House, Congress needs to mandate periodic, parallel offshore leasing schedules for both renewable and fossil fuel energy projects, with meaningful penalties for noncompliance.

The Biden administration has repeatedly demonstrated how the executive branch can be an unreliable partner for American energy expansion. The Department of the Interior, for example, recently issued draft rules to establish a five-year public leasing schedule for offshore wind projects. The rules, as currently proposed, would require the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to publish a list of sites that could potentially be leased, as well as a schedule of intended future lease sales. The schedule would be updated at least once every two years. The draft rules promise that the schedule “would provide increased certainty and enhanced transparency…[and] facilitate planning by industry, the States, and other stakeholders.”

And yet, the devil remains in the details. While on the surface the scheme appears to be a commitment to further energy expansion, in reality, it amounts to little more than vague promises. By the Department’s own admission, the rules would not obligate the Bureau to offer the auctions, and its schedule can be altered at a bureaucratic whim. If the schedule loses the political wind in its sails, it can summarily be cast aside—hardly a prospect that provides “increased certainty and enhanced transparency.”

Published in its entirety in RealClearEnergy.