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Oil industry makes much ado about not much on federal lands drilling pause

January 27, 2021


On Wednesday, President Biden signed an executive order directing his Department of Interior to hit pause on entering new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, the latest in a string of climate-related directives aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Joe Biden proposed a ban on new leases on public lands, a pledge the Trump campaign falsely claimed would “end fracking.” After Biden’s victory, a coalition of nearly 600 organizations from western states wrote a letter in December to the president-elect, urging him to follow through on his promise. The executive order begins that process.

About 25 percent of U.S. fossil fuel production came from federal lands over the past decade. Perhaps unsurprisingly, federal lands account for roughly 24 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, stemming from the production of oil, gas, and coal, along with the methane released during the extraction process, and the combustion of those fuels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

New Mexico is already suffering budgetary pain from the pandemic-related decline in oil and gas markets. But the oil industry’s decline is structural, not cyclical, as the world shifts to cleaner forms of energy. As a result, New Mexico’s budgetary problems “cannot be dismissed as a temporary phenomenon,” analysts Tom Sanzillo and Suzanne Mattei at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) wrote in an October report. Slumping tax revenues in 2020 “serve as a harsh warning of fiscal stresses to come if the state’s heavy dependence on oil and gas revenues remains unchanged.” 

[Nick Cunningham]

More: Oil Industry Inflates Job Impact From Biden’s New Pause on Drilling on Federal Lands

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