On Tuesday, under “Trump administration rushes to lease federal lands,” Alexander Nazaryan, national correspondent for Yahoo, pens a string of potential horrors if the administration’s plan to lease 2.9 million acres of unused western land moves forward.
“The Department of Interior is quietly preparing to offer hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for leasing to energy companies, a move critics have charged is being undertaken with minimal public input and little consideration for ecological and cultural preservation,” Nazaryan wrote.
“Because the land in question – in states including New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona – lacks designation as a national park or monument, it can be used for commercial purposes such as mining for minerals and drilling for oil and gas. Supporters say that bolstering the extractive industries will ensure energy independence for the United States, though shifting energy preferences and falling oil prices appear to undermine that assertion.”
The land can be used for commercial purposes, including mining and drilling for oil and gas. This is among the least-populated land in the country, and it is not generating anything for anyone or anything at this point.
Moreover, we already devote more than 100 million acres of land to state and national parks and reserves and 41 percent to rangeland for feeding livestock – a quarter of which is under government control.
Bolstering the extractive industries has all but ensured energy independence for Americans.
The U.S. went from importing nearly 60 percent of its fossil fuels in the 2000s to less than 5 percent today. As for shifting energy preferences, coal use has reached all-time highs this year and is expected to remain high for years to come as Asian economies strengthen.
As for falling oil prices, they are a feature, not a bug.
Nazaryan slams Westerners who “sometimes chafe at what they regard as Washington’s inept oversight. That tension was most dramatically on display in 2014, when federal agents engaged in an armed standoff with the family of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher with extreme right-wing views.”
He then goes after Zinke for having former lobbyists or others “with ties to the oil and gas industry” on his staff.
But what really bugs Nazaryan is that Trump is doing this instead of Obama.
“Leasing land was a common practice before Trump,” he wrote. “What’s different now, detractors say [we never hear from supporters], is that the Bureau of Land Management is moving with uncommon speed to make improper determinations without allowing public to comment. This has led, these critics say, to widespread damage to the environment of the American West.”
No examples were offered.
“The Obama administration offered plenty of land to energy and mineral prospectors,” Nazaryan wrote. “But it did so in far more considered fashion.”
“Considered fashion” can be translated to “begrudgingly.”
The Obama administration never offered more than 6.1 million acres for leasing and was down to 1.9 million acres by the time it left office – virtually shutting down Western energy exploration.
Trump offered 11.9 million acres the first year, most of them in Alaska. But since investors have not bought up as much of Trump’s far larger designation of land, “that suggests the Obama administration was more judicious in determining lands that would be desirable to industry.”
But it’s not just the numbers, Nazaryan wrote. It’s also that Obama cleared his land offerings with his donors on the environmental left and Trump doesn’t. “In 2012, for example, only 17 percent of the parcels offered by the Obama administration were ‘protested’ by the public.
“Conversely, of the parcels offered in 2017, a full 88 percent were contested, suggesting the Trump administration has been largely indiscriminate in the land it offered.”