It’s hard to overstate the symbolic importance of the executive order President Biden signed Wednesday that paused new leasing of oil and gas development on federal lands, among other actions on climate change. The United States is the world’s top oil and gas producer, and the directive, which orders a wholesale review of the federal leasing and permitting program, signals a reckoning with how that production will need to fall.
Advocates hope the halt to leasing will be the first step toward developing a comprehensive path to phase out fossil fuel production in a way that also supports workers, communities, and states that depend on the resources for their livelihoods.
But the order—which pauses leasing until the review is completed—will do little in itself to reduce the nation’s oil and gas production, and will not affect the number of wells being drilled for years.
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