In a city known for its duplicity, cynicism, and toxic partisanship, the Biden administration’s April 15 announcement of the “resumption” of federal oil and gas leasing was one of the most duplicitous announcements ever. , cynical and toxic partisans of all time. He was slipped out the door, not only on a Friday – the day reserved for news that an administration wants dead before the following Monday – but the Good Friday, the holiest Friday in Christendom.
The announcement was the federal government’s response to a federal court order to resume tenancy exactly ten months earlier. The federal government, specifically the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees 245 million surface acres and 700 million acres of mineral properties, is required by an act of Congress, the Mineral Leasing Act, to perform quarterly oil and gas sales. leases on land that is not otherwise prohibited for this activity. President Biden halted those sales in his first week in office, but on June 14, 2021, a federal district court in Louisiana ruled the “pause” illegal. The Biden administration appealed and said it was taking steps to comply with the judge’s ruling, but slowed it down. So a few days ago, the West, home to most BLM land, entered its sixth quarter without a lease sale.
That was not all. Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, initiated draconian regulations making energy production more expensive, and fought against oil and gas operators’ ability to secure financing. Energy prices have started to climb. In response, Biden went hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela demanding that they, not us in the West, increase production. Twice Biden tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Nonetheless, energy prices continued to rise and Americans blamed Biden.
So came the Good Friday announcement, which rescinded a campaign promise by Biden to end the leasing of oil and gas on federal lands. Progressives outraged by Biden’s decision either haven’t read the fine print or are in the wrong because Biden eliminated 80% of land available for lease and increased the cost of operating those leases by 50%. Without saying so, Biden is realizing what radical environmentalists are demanding when they insist we “leave” fossil fuels “in the ground.”
We’ve been here before under the Carter administration, when the radical environmentalists — whom Robert Zubrin called Merchants of Despair and whom Reagan called the Luddites – ran the energy policy of the US government. Federal agencies have chosen the lands available for energy exploration, instead of those that will invest hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to find new sources of oil and gas by selecting the lands most likely to contain new sources of oil and gas. Federal agencies also limited the leaflets available to increase the price paid to the government for their use and sought to maximize bonus offers and royalties. The federal government’s failure to find new energy rather than short-term federal revenue exacerbated the catastrophic oil crisis of 1979, which revealed Carter powerless.
Because Reagan sought energy independence, he opened the entire outer continental shelf to exploration via an “area-wide lease” during which all but the most energy-sensitive areas environment, were available to allow operators, not career bureaucrats, to select the most relevant areas. Reagan did the same on land, opening up lands that had been locked away for years, even decades.
That Biden is seeking to revert Carter’s scarce and costly energy policies is clear from his spokesperson on the issue, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who indicts not only Reagan but Congress itself. “For too long,” she said in a statement, “Federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the needs of the extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of tribal nations and, additionally, other uses of our shared public lands.
It does not make sense. Congress has set the terms under which federal lands are leased and energy discovered, developed, and delivered to the consumer, which means in accordance with the strictest environmental laws in the world to protect “the natural environment.” [and] our air and our water. Wyoming, for example, has benefited mightily from oil and gas development for decades, and those of us in Wyoming remain proud of its pristine beauty and can still boast that “Wyoming is what the West used to be.” . As for the “wants” of “local communities,” ask the residents of Douglas, Converse County, Wyoming, who are hoping for hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs in “oil patches,” what they want. . If Haaland had organized a lease sale, she would know that governors have the ability to request the removal of leaflets they consider sensitive — requests we have readily granted in the Trump administration.
Secretary Haaland, the first Native American to serve as secretary, claims to speak for “the needs of tribal nations,” but when attacking oil and gas development, she does not represent the Utes of Colorado and Utah, the three affiliated tribes of the North. Dakota, the Shoshone, and the Arapaho of northern Wyoming, or even individual Navajo living on allotted land in New Mexico. Likewise, when she posits scarcity and high energy prices, she doesn’t care about the many Native Americans who, in the worst inflation in 40 years, are having to choose between food and fuel.
On behalf of the Biden administration, Haaland plans “to reset how and what we view as the highest and best use of American resources for the benefit of all current and future generations.” It’s not his decision. Indeed, despite her attempts to change the law while she was in Congress representing Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Congress spoke. Moreover, because of the scarcity of energy deposits, “the highest and best use of American resources” is the development, in accordance with federal environmental laws and the principles of multiple use, of the vast reserves of petroleum and gas below the surface.
How much we in the West wonder, must Biden hate us that he would rather source oil and gas from our enemies abroad than from Westerners who can produce not only energy in abundance, but also well-paying American jobs that can revive rural economies through energy royalties, taxes and other revenues? He must hate us because he placed our lands out of bounds and put them out of reach.
William Perry Pendley, a Wyoming attorney, served in senior positions in the Reagan and Trump administrations and represented pro bono clients for three decades, including on the United States Supreme Court.