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Trump’s Interior Dept. Has Opportunity to Turn Around Dismal Leasing Policies


Some people might think that it’s unfair to compare leasing during the Bush administration to the Obama administration because Bush was involved in the oil industry prior to becoming president. But if we compare the acreage leased during the Clinton administration to the Obama administration, we see that the Obama administration leased only 42 percent as many acres as the Clinton administration. In fact the best year of the Obama administration in terms of acreage leased (FY 2011 with 2.0 million acres leased) was still worse than the worst year of the Clinton administration (FY 1996 with 2.5 million acres leased).

Withdrawing vs. Allowing Multiple Use

Instead of allowing for multiple uses of federal lands, as required by law, the Obama administration vigorously worked to take lands and waters off the table. The following chart shows the numbers of acres the administration withdrew from multiple use compared to acres in production.

U.S. Oil and gas production is booming—but not on federal lands

One explanation of the Obama administration’s poor record on leasing is that oil and gas prices have been low, but this ignores the fact that oil and gas prices were high just a few years ago. Because oil and gas prices were high a few years it, it stimulated a boom in oil and gas production on private and state lands, but because of the Obama administration’s antagonism toward oil and gas leasing, production on federal lands has lagged as we previously explained here.

Last week, the Senate held a confirmation hearing on Rep. Zinke’s nomination to be the next Secretary of the Interior. One of President Trump’s biggest energy-related campaign promises was to open up onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing. For Rep. Zinke, it will be a real challenge to get oil and gas leasing back to where it was during the Clinton or Bush administrations. Rep. Zinke has his work cut out for him to reverse these troubling trends. The law requires federal lands to be managed for multiple uses including energy production, not just to be designated as national monuments.