Biden goes all in on offshore wind

By Robin Bravender, Heather Richards | 07/20/2023 01:30 PM EDT

The White House announced the first offshore wind sale in the Gulf of Mexico as the president traveled to Philadelphia to trumpet his clean energy record. 

President Joe Biden speaks at a shipyard.

President Joe Biden speaks at a shipyard in Philadelphia on Thursday. Biden is visiting the shipyard to push for a strong role for unions in tech and clean energy jobs. Susan Walsh/AP Photo

President Joe Biden is leaning into his offshore wind record as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up and Democrats try to sell voters on the clean energy investments in the mammoth climate law enacted last year.

The president traveled to Philadelphia on Thursday to tout this record as his administration announced the first-ever sale of offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Mexico, which caps several years of advancing offshore wind in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Speaking from the Philly Shipyard — where a company is tapping union workers to build a first-of-its-kind vessel that will be used to build offshore wind farms — the president touted the jobs and manufacturing associated with offshore wind development.


“This law is creating millions of good-paying clean energy manufacturing jobs, including offshore wind,” Biden said..

The Gulf leasing announcement and Biden’s speech come as the president and his top aides have been touring the country to herald the investments from the climate law and the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law. Biden and other Democratic lawmakers are bragging about the jobs created and emissions reduced through the new laws that boost clean energy and manufacturing as they hammer the Republicans who voted against those investments.

The Acadia vessel, the first U.S.-flagged subsea rock installation vessel, is being built by the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. in Philadelphia. The company employs over 1,000 workers across nine unions to build the vessel and will use rock from American quarries to protect offshore wind foundations, according to the White House.

The company “has stated that it would not have entered the growing U.S. offshore wind market were it not for the Biden-Harris administration’s clean energy policies,” White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.

Offshore wind — which stands to receive major tax benefits through last year’s Inflation Reduction Act — is a critical part of Biden’s strategy for creating jobs and slashing emissions.

The president wants to reach 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Thursday’s leasing announcement could help him get there.

“We’re going to the Gulf,” Biden said, heralding the lease sale. “You think I’m kidding. Ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Gulf’s first wind sale

The Gulf sale, which will offer three areas off the coast of Texas and Louisiana, could support enough wind turbines to power 1.3 million homes.

The Aug. 29 sale will include 102,480-acre lease area located 64 miles from Lake Charles, La., and two areas that are 28 miles from the coast at Galveston, Texas — one of those would be 102,480 acres and the other 96,786 acres. The Texas lease areas include a carve-out to protect shrimping grounds.

In a statement Thursday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland echoed her boss that auctioning leases for offshore wind farms in the Gulf will be a “historic step” forward for clean energy in the U.S.

“By catalyzing the offshore wind energy potential of the Gulf of Mexico, we can tackle the climate crisis, lower energy costs for families and create good-paying jobs,” she said.

Though not in Biden’s official talking points, the arrival of offshore wind to the Gulf of Mexico has also been heralded by some in that region as a wedding of fossil fuel industries and renewable energy.

The Gulf of Mexico is the center of the nation’s offshore oil and gas sector, representing as much as 15 percent of America’s annual oil production. It’s also a player in the nation’s shipping industries and has supplied workers and vessels to help lift the first offshore wind farms in the United States.

“The remarkable synergy between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind is evident,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, on Thursday. “With the introduction of offshore wind in the Gulf Coast, numerous local companies will now have the opportunity to actively participate in the construction of new wind projects closer to home.”

More than a dozen developers, many of them global oil and gas drillers, have prequalified to bid into the Aug. 29 wind auction, according to Interior documents, promising a potentially significant bidding war between large renewable developers and Big Oil.

They include Norwegian oil, gas and wind giant Equinor ASA; the French oil firm TotalEnergies SE, which recently participated in Biden’s offshore wind auctions off the coast of California and North Carolina; Avangrid Renewables; and a subsidiary of the South Korea power conglomerate Hanwha Offshore North America LLC.

Offshore wind gets political

The offshore wind industry is swiftly expanding in the U.S. from a permitting standpoint thanks to the full-throated support from the White House, even as economic headwinds from inflation and supply chain constraints have cast uncertainty over some of the nation’s first proposed projects.

The industry has also faced pushback from coastal communities, an opposition force that’s found support from conservative lawmakers and threatens to further politicize the new industry.

Some critics — including Republican lawmakers, former President Donald Trump and conservative commentator Tucker Carlson — have pushed back on offshore wind as they ramp up attacks on the Biden administration’s climate and energy agenda.

As the 2024 presidential campaign season heats up, the White House continues to highlight the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act passed without the support of a single congressional Republican.

The White House stressed Thursday that nearly every GOP House lawmaker voted this year to repeal the law’s clean energy tax credits, “doubling down on their opposition at a time when manufacturers were investing in their state.”