Democrats Debunk Republican False Claims that the Obama Administration Stopped Fossil Fuel Development on Public Lands

Washington, D.C. – Republicans are pushing their “oil above all” agenda at yet another Committee hearing tomorrow at 10 a.m., an agenda that favors the oil and gas industry’s interests ahead of all other uses of our public lands. The Trump administration, with the help of Republicans in Congress, have been working at lightning speed to grant every wish of the fossil fuel industry and roll back commonsense health, safety, and environmental protections while removing all drilling and digging restrictions on public lands.

For years, Republicans have falsely accused the Obama administration of an anti-energy agenda that sought to shut off oil and gas on federal lands. The following facts debunk those false accusations:

GOP CLAIM: The vast majority of public lands and waters are off-limits for oil and gas leasing.

FACT: Companies have access to enormous swaths of public land. Offshore, there are nearly 95 million acres offered for lease every year and 192 million acres of the 213 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the 11 Western states is open to oil and gas leasing under current land-use plans.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Percent of BLM land in each state open to oil and gas leasing. (Source: The Wilderness Society)


GOP CLAIM: Production has not increased on federal lands. The growth in American oil production has happened entirely on private lands.

FACT:    Federal onshore oil production increased by 78% from 2007 to 2015.

                Federal offshore oil production has hit a record high in January 2017.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Federal Onshore Oil Production. (Source: Office of Natural Resources Revenue)


Figure 3 

Figure 3: Federal oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. (Source: Energy Information Administration)


GOP CLAIM: Companies can’t get enough permits to drill on public lands.

FACT: The number of drilling permits approved by BLM each year (red bars below) is significantly more than the number of wells drilled (blue bars), and drillers have an inventory of thousands of approved drilling permits they haven’t used (green bars) at the end of each Fiscal Year. BLM has refused to release the data for the end of Fiscal Year 2016.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Permits approved (red) and wells drilled (blue) each year, with number of approved but unused permits at the end of each Fiscal Year (green). Source: Bureau of Land Management


GOP CLAIM: President Trump and the Department of the Interior are pursuing an “All of the Above” energy strategy.

FACT: Oil, gas, and coal programs are slated to get large increases in the FY18 budget, while renewable energy programs (and everything else) would get decreased.

 Figure 5

Figure 5: Proposed FY18 Budget Decreases for Renewable Energy (top) and Increases for Conventional Energy (bottom) for two energy leasing bureaus (Source: Bureau of Land Management & Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)


GOP CLAIM: Obama administration policies caused revenues to decline and getting back to 2008 levels could be used to entirely fix the National Park Service maintenance backlog.

FACT: 2008 was an outlier year with oil spiking to $145 a barrel and natural gas at $13 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), compared to about $45/barrel and $2-$3/mcf currently. The second and third top years for federal oil and gas revenues were 2013 and 2014, during the Obama administration.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Total Mineral Revenues by Fiscal Year (Source: Office of Natural Resources Revenue/Minerals Management Service)

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Diane Padilla                                                     

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