Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Oil Industry’s Grip on Public Lands Is Slowing Progress Toward Energy Independence
Press Release

RELEASE: Oil Industry’s Grip on Public Lands Is Slowing Progress Toward Energy Independence

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that most of the public lands in the western United States that are ideal for wind, solar, and geothermal renewable energy projects have low or no oil and gas potential—yet the government is still prioritizing them for oil and gas leasing.

The analysis found that 77 percent of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in six western states that could be used for renewable energy are unlikely to have oil and gas resources. Overall, 77 percent of the lands studied for solar favorability, as well as 72 percent of the lands studied for wind favorability and 83 percent of the lands studied for geothermal favorability, are on lands with low or no potential for developing crude oil.

Despite this geological reality, BLM regulations continue to favor fossil fuel extraction as the presumed preferred use of public lands. These regulations give the oil and gas industry excessive power in determining what happens to these lands. Renewables, on the other hand, go through a more robust process for leasing from which the oil industry has been largely exempt.

“With gas prices putting all eyes on homegrown energy production, the United States must be doing all it can to increase its domestic supply of renewable energy on its public lands and waters,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, deputy director for Public Lands at CAP and co-author of the analysis. “The default to oil and gas leasing is standing in the way of America’s transition to a clean energy future. Conserving our national resources and transitioning to a clean energy economy is essential to lead the country to energy independence.”

The report calls for several areas of reform:

  • The government should end oil and gas leasing on lands with low or no potential for oil and gas.
  • The Bureau of Land Management should reform the broken oil and gas leasing program.
  • Congress should pass the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act to expand renewable energy projects on public lands and waters.
  • The Interior Department should protect coastal communities by ending offshore oil and gas leasing in its next five-year plan.

Read the report: “The Oil Industry’s Grip on Public Lands and Waters May Be Slowing Progress Toward Energy Independence” by Jenny Rowland-Shea and Zainab Mirza

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.