How should the government best manage America’s national parks? It’s a question that has provoked debate for years, and President-elect Donald Trump‘s pro-fossil fuel campaign pledges have ignited even more controversy. As he will be inaugurated later this month, oil industry members expressed delight at the potential of more leases to drill or mine the vast amounts of oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium hiding on those contentious federal lands.
During President Obama‘s time in office, the number of leases for mining and drilling stagnated, but Trump promised to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves” and might be able accomplish that through new leases to drill for fossil fuel companies. Big Oil is thrilled with that goal; American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard told Reuters, “This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime.”
During his campaign, Trump said Obama denied “millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet,” in part by restricting leases. Some people agree with him, such as former U.S. Bureau of Land Management officer Bob Turri who lives amidst a federal forest in Utah and told Reuters, “We can’t maintain our families here because there are no jobs. That’s the only hope we have left, is what Trump may be able to do for us.”
Federal land oil output accounted for around one fifth of the country’s total oil output in 2015, according to Reuters, after comprising over one third of oil output in 2010.
In a late November blog post, the Trump-Pence Transition Team said, “Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel reserves, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.” In the very same post they said they plan to conserve “our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats.” If they’re actually committed to the latter promise as they claim, perhaps they should take a closer look at the havoc drilling has wreaked on the environment in the past.