New fact sheet busts the myth of a war on oil and gas

Jan 25, 2017

Data reveals oil and gas companies passed on most public land leases, sit on millions of stockpiled acres

DENVER—As the Trump administration takes shape, the Center for Western Priorities released a new fact sheet showing how oil and gas companies thrived on public lands over the course of the Obama administration.

Far from a “war on oil” claimed by President Trump, his allies in Congress, and industry lobbyists, data shows that U.S. oil and gas production skyrocketed over the last eight years, that oil and gas companies are holding millions of acres of public lands leases, most of which are not being used, and that companies continue to receive a sweetheart deal for producing oil and gas on public lands.

“From day one we’re seeing the Trump administration’s proclivity for pushing ‘alternative facts’ to the American public. Luckily, the U.S. government compiles reams of data about energy leasing and development on American lands,” said Greg Zimmerman, deputy director with the Center for Western Priorities. “The facts don’t lie. U.S. oil and natural gas production has reached new heights, and drillers have more access to public lands than they know what to do with.”

A few facts that may be a surprise include:

  • Oil production increased nearly 60 percent on U.S. public lands between the last year of George W. Bush’s term and the last year of Barack Obama’s term.
  • U.S. natural gas production is at an all-time high.
  • 22 million acres of public lands offered at auction went unsold to oil companies in just the last seven years.
  • Oil and gas companies are currently sitting on over 19 million acres of unused public land leases, while over 7,500 approved drilling permits on U.S. public lands are undrilled and idled.

President Trump is entering office with a promise to negotiate a better deal for American taxpayers. He has an opportunity to reform oil and gas leasing on U.S. public lands, which is currently guided by policies put into place in the 1920s. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released a report—which could provide a roadmap for the incoming administration—that shows how small changes to leasing rates could generate hundreds of millions annually.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration is already indicating that they intend to take a different tact by repealing taxpayer protections put into place by the previous administration and by rapidly increasing the pace and scale of oil and gas leasing.

“President Trump and members of Congress appear readied to do the bidding of oil and gas companies, while undermining common-sense rules that are in place to protect American lands and ensure taxpayers receive a fair return from drilling,” Zimmerman said. “The big winners will be billionaire CEOs, while taxpayers and communities across the United States will be forced to shoulder the burdens of fewer protections.”

Some members of Congress have suggested that one of their first orders of business will be repealing the methane rule, which was recently implemented by the Bureau of Land Management. The rule encourages oil and gas companies to collect and sell natural gas produced from American public lands, while ensuring drillers do not waste taxpayer-owned resources.