What can Biden do about oil and gas?

This is a case of California controlling its own destiny — mostly.

To begin with, 90% of California’s oil and gas production is managed by the state. So while federal agencies have autonomy over projects on federal land, these operations are dwarfed by California’s state-controlled oil and gas fields.

What can, or will, Biden do? The president issued an executive order calling for a “pause” on new oil and gas leasing on federal land “to the extent possible.” In addition, his climate plans call for less reliance on fossil fuels.

However, Biden’s approach to fracking — injecting liquids underground to extract oil and gas — isn’t clear cut. About 20% of California’s oil is produced from fracked wells, according to the state

During the campaign, Biden made contradictory comments about fracking. In a 2019 debate, Biden said “we would make sure it’s eliminated.” But in a debate last year he only said he opposed “new fracking.” The new president provided clarity in his second week in the White House, saying “We are not going to ban fracking.”

In California, fracking comes under the control of the state. Newsom in September called for a ban by 2024, although the state continues to approve new projects.

The crude oil lying three miles off the coast is a different matter.

In 2017 Trump signed an executive order that could open waters off the California coast to new oil and gas drilling, tracts that were placed off limits at least through 2022 by President Obama. The last time federal oil leases were offered off California was in 1984. California, however, has thrown an obstacle in the path of Trump’s efforts by saying it would not allow new pipelines and facilities to transport any new oil produced offshore. 

Biden has not fleshed out specific policies regarding public lands, but is likely to discontinue offshore leases as part of his plan to pare back new domestic oil and gas production.

On inauguration day, he issued a broad directive that he said “jumpstarts swift, initial action” related to climate change by “revoking, revising, or replacing” Trump’s orders and permits.