It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region | CC BY 2.0

For decades our public lands have been exploited by oil and gas companies and the price these greedy developers are paying for the right to drill continues to plunge. A recent analysis by Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reveals that since 1983, the per acre price for oil drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico dropped by nearly 96% — from over $9,000 to a meager $391. POGO notes that this precipitous decline has saved Big Oil billions of dollars in their Gulf of Mexico leases alone.

Of course, Donald Trump wants to expand this oil bonanza, opening our vast, publicly owned oceans to offshore drillers. Sadly, he’s just following Barack Obama’s broken energy path. Oil production on public lands during Obama’s tenure increased by almost 60 percent. So much land was offered up to the extraction industry that much of it, even when offered at bargain-basement prices, went unsold. Between 2009 and 2015, 22 million acres of Bureau of Land Management parcels received no bids for development while 6.7 million were tapped.

Graph courtesy of The Center for Western Priorities.

It’s a travesty that dates back to the Reagan Era, where public assets were increasingly stuffed into the pockets of private companies. In the case of off-shore drilling, Reagan’s Interior Secretary James Watt implemented the so-called “area-wide leasing” program which opened up whole areas, like the entire Central Gulf of…

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