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Interior Dept. Report Advocates Shift Away From Fossil Fuels

November 29, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Interior Dept. Report Advocates Shift Away From Fossil Fuels
(Photo via the Independent Petroleum Association of America)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new proposal to overhaul the nation’s oil and gas leasing program drew praise this week from environmentalists in Congress but complaints from oil-producing states.

The proposal wouldn’t eliminate oil and gas leases but it would impose severe restrictions on them and raise lease prices for energy companies.

Environmentalists say it would limit greenhouse gases. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and some oil company executives say it will raise fuel prices and hurt the energy industry.

The policy in an Interior Department report Friday recommends higher government royalties that energy companies would pay to extract oil and gas from public lands.

They also would need to pay higher bidding costs. Fewer properties would be available for the leases.

The policy shift represents an attempt to push the United States toward more renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.

“Utility-scale renewable energy production has emerged as a viable source of energy that can be generated on public lands and in offshore waters,” the Interior Department report says. “The direct and indirect impacts associated with oil and gas development on our nation’s land, water, wildlife, and the health and security of communities—particularly communities of color, who bear a disproportionate burden of pollution—merit a fundamental rebalancing of the Federal oil and gas program.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said the Interior Department report underscores the need to approve environmental reform legislation pending in Congress. Until now, government policy effectively created subsidies for oil and gas companies, he said.

“We need new industry financial requirements and greater public transparency around leasing,” said Grijalva, who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. 

A more critical response came Monday from Murkowski, who described the Interior Department report as upsetting.

“This report is exactly what we thought it would be: a series of preordained conclusions that are designed to end federal oil and gas production,” Murkowski said in a statement.

She added, “The policies it calls for won’t maximize returns for taxpayers or even reduce emissions — instead, they will hurt production in states like Alaska, further raise energy prices and increase our nation’s import dependence. This won’t build back any barrels, but it is — yet again — music to OPEC’s ears.”

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com

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