Op-ed: GOP misleads Americans on energy and public lands

Paul Ryan makes blatantly false claims about energy development


The proposed GOP budget includes plans to sell off public lands in the West. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After licking his wounds for a few months, former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is picking up right where he left off, by misleading Americans about the Obama administration’s energy and public lands policies.

Most blatantly, Ryan this week wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration is “buying up land to prevent further development” of energy resources. “Our budget opens these lands to development, so families will have affordable energy,” he added, playing to the lowest common denominator of his conservative base as if he were still campaigning for office.

Ryan’s simplistic and false statement about the connection between public lands and energy costs is flat-out wrong. Domestic energy production has grown under Obama; the administration has been leasing land for onshore production and selling offshore leases at a vigorous rate.

Ryan would be hard-pressed to find a single example of this, or any other administration, buying land specifically to block energy production. The federal government has a very limited budget for land acquisition. Most purchases target small parcels that are already surrounded by public land, improving access to trails or for some other similarly specific purpose. Suggesting that federal agencies are buying land to block energy development is preposterous — the statement serves only to inflame public opinion based on falsehoods.

It’s also pretty clear that some energy development has shifted from public to private lands, not because of any policies the block energy development, but because that’s where the fossil fuels are.

And while Ryan claims that the the proposed GOP budget “puts the country on the path to North American energy independence” by approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the truth is that Obama’s push for renewable energy is the real path toward long-term energy independence.

The proposed GOP budget once again includes a pet project of radical right-wing western Republicans — selling off millions of acres of public lands to help reduce the deficit. This pie-in-the-sky plan most recently surfaced last November, when Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)  and Stephen Pearce (R-Ariz) said that such sales could ease federal budget woes.

The congressmen went on to specifically identify the Green River formation, repeating the myth that the area could yield more than 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil shale, “nearly four times the reserves of Saudi Arabia,” claiming that the area has been placed off limits by the Obama administration.

Of course the real idea is to enable unbridled development on those lands, including real estate speculation and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, including oil drilling in Alaska and oil shale development in Colorado.

Ryan’s budget ideas are a retread of a campaign platform that was soundly rejected by voters last November. Most westerners outside the radical fringe know better the value of our public resources.


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3 Responses

  1. Your statement about domestic energy production is flat-out wrong. Domestic energy production has NOT grown under Obama; it has grown IN SPITE of Obama. The reason that U.S. crude oil production is increasing is because of production on private and state lands while production on federal lands is decreasing. The President cannot honestly take credit for the production on private and state lands since he has no control over that production, but he IS to blame for decreasing production on federal lands.

    Similarly for gas – natural gas production is up, but this is because of production on private and state lands because production on federal lands is decreasing.

    Source – Annual Energy Review

  2. Jerry Z,
    You ideas seem to be based on what people like Rush Limbaugh and Paul Ryan are peddling. It’s scary to think anyone wouldn’t see through the right wing conservative slant.

  3. Bob is probably right about the modest land purchase plans of the Federal Government. I certainly have not heard about areas where these purchases impede oil development.

    It is true that the shift to private land is presently because that is where the resources are being found, but the next major play could easily be found on pubic land, and it is not true that the Administration has been active in leasing onshore and offshore. I won’t step into the debate over whether the shutdown of offshore activity in response to the Macondo well blowout lasted too long, but that was a hit, and recovery has been slow.

    Onshore, I don’t believe that the leasing levels have been anything like those from the Bush and Clinton administrations, which were not that different. And for the one period I examined in that earlier era, it was clear that the total number of non-producing leases was nearly the same at the beginning and end of the period (~20,000), with more leases actually being either given up or turned into productive leases (>27,000) than the non-producing lease total. That lower number merely represents the working inventory for a process that takes many years, particularly in the face of bureaucratic delays and legal objections.

    It does not require any allegiance to Rush Limbaugh or any support for Mr. Ryan’s plan to conclude that this Administration wishes to take credit for production increases in recent years without actually being very supportive of leasing activity on public land. It’s actions on oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are particularly egregious examples of removing the most prospective lands from consideration while masquerading as a supporters of a reasonable policy. No one who looks carefully at the record would see this team as encouraging to those seeking to develop oil and gas on Federal land.

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