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Who says the Obama Administration isn’t a friend to fossil fuels? This week the Department of the Interior inked plans to auction off more than 38 million acres of federally owned waters in the central Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling companies, reopening opportunities for energy firms to expand their offshore drilling operations.

According to government estimates, the area up for auction—scheduled to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans in late March—could produce nearly 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“The Obama Administration is fully committed to developing our domestic energy resources to create jobs, foster economic opportunities, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil,” DOI Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. “Exploration and development of the Gulf of Mexico’s vital energy resources will continue to help power our nation and drive our economy.”

The sale is the second under the Obama administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing program for 2012-2017, and the first of five lease sales in the central Gulf. The November lease sale of more than 20 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico generated nearly $134 million in bids, according to the Associated Press while another sale in the central Gulf held last June yielded $1.7 billion.

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