The U.S. government put millions of acres on the table for drillers looking to tap into the billions of barrels of oil yet to be discovered offshore.  Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the next lease in a five-year plan includes 79 million acres off the coast of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. All told, the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico hold about 48 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  “Responsibly developing our offshore energy resources is a major pillar of this Administration’s energy strategy,” Bernhardt said in a statement released near the close of trading Thursday.

The White House under President Donald Trump, a pro-oil former real estate mogul, said energy dominance means a U.S. economy free from pressures from foreign producers who use energy as “an economic weapon.” Crude oil exports, meanwhile, could increase U.S. leverage overseas.  A 2017 lease covering the entire southern coastal region, save for protected areas, generated $121 million in high bids for 90 tracts covering nearly 510,000 acres.  After a similar auction earlier this year, William Turner, a senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said the results show the industry is still wary about making big bets. High bids totaling $124.8 million during an auction earlier this year were offered by supermajors like BP and Royal Dutch Shell, companies that have the deepest pockets.