Friday, June 1, 2012

Does Big Oil really need more of our public lands?

When energy companies want to use public lands (on land or at sea), to drill for a publicly-owned resource (oil and gas), they must "lease" that land from the government.  This system, ostensibly, is the government's way of getting value from the sale of a public good.

In other words, the oil and gas belongs to the people, so the government leases the land for drilling, making $$ on the sale of those fossil fuels.  

Unfortunately, the system is broken - First, Big Oil pays for leases, yes, but then they sell the public our own commodity back to us at $100 a barrel! Second, while the price of oil remains high, and while Big Oil makes claims that they need more public lands to be opened up for oil drilling (like the Atlantic Ocean), they are sitting on tens of millions of unused acres of drilling land they've already been given access to!

According to a report by the US Department of Interior,
"More than two thirds of federal offshore tracts leased by the oil and gas industry and more than half of the federal onshore acreage companies hold in the Lower 48 remains idle."
In one news story covering the issue, a stark picture was painted about the offshore drilling issue:
"According to the Report, more than 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres currently under lease are inactive...Out of nearly 36 million acres, only about 10 million acres are active." 
Over half of the acres on land approved for energy production sit idle.

These data beg the question: If the Energy Companies are complaining that they aren't given enough access to oil and gas - and that our "price at the pump" suffers therefrom - why are they sitting on these lands?  Could they be holding back supply, waiting for prices to be higher so they can make more profit?

Check out a map from a 2011 Department of Interior study on this issue:

Given these vast tracts of lands and ocean that Big Oil has already secured (for it's own massive profits at the expense of the public), No New Drilling should be allowed - especially in areas like the Atlantic Ocean.

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