DENVER—The House of Representatives today passed the Strategic Production Response Act (H.R. 21), a bill that would limit drawdowns from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until the Department of Energy develops a plan to lease more national public lands to oil and gas companies. Despite the rhetoric that the bill would increase oil and gas production and lower gas prices, the bill text does not incentivize or otherwise plan for more oil production.
The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Policy Director Rachael Hamby:
“This is a bill that doesn’t do what its supporters claim. It’s a bill that doesn’t do anything at all. Increasing oil and gas leasing on America’s public lands would do nothing to increase oil production, much less lower gas prices. And this bill doesn’t even do that. It orders the Energy secretary to come up with a plan to lease more land—but the Energy department doesn’t manage our public lands.
“The Interior department is already making more land available than the industry even wants. In the first onshore lease sale held by the Biden administration last summer, oil and gas companies purchased leases on only 60 percent of the almost 130,000 acres of public land offered for lease. And off the coast of Alaska, the first lease sale held in five years was a complete flop, drawing a single bid for one parcel out of 193 offered.
“If Congress wanted to lower gas prices, it could order oil and gas CEOs to use the tens of thousands of leases and thousands of approved but unused drilling permits that they have right now. This bill doesn’t do that, because CEOs have made it clear their shareholders expect them to keep production down and gas prices high so they can maximize profits over people. This bill just tries to lock up millions more acres of public land, while doing nothing to lower gas prices today or in the future.”
As of September 2022, the Bureau of Land Management reported oil and gas companies have 8,663 approved but unused permits to drill on public land. In its November 2021 report outlining deficiencies in the oil and gas leasing program, the Interior department reported that companies held over 37,000 oil and gas leases covering 26.6 million acres. Of that land, 13.9 million acres, or 53 percent, were not producing oil and gas.