Trump Administration Oil and Gas Leases Will Result In Billions of Metric Tons of CO2 Pollution


A new analysis released last week by The Wilderness Society found that the extensive new oil and gas leases on federal lands could result in “lifecycle emissions from extraction and end-use ranging between 1 billion and 5.95 billion metric tons (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).”  That equates to more than half of the annual emissions of China – by far the world’s worst emitter,” and methane emissions could increase by 6.6 billion MT CO2e.

Why This Matters:  Just as we need to be massively cutting back our emissions, greenhouse gas pollution originating on government lands and waters are going to skyrocket and will have a lasting impact that will be difficult to reverse if the leases are developed.  And the amount of greenhouse gas emissions coming from federal lands and waters is significant.  The Wilderness Society says that Federal Lands Emissions Accountability Tool (FLEAT) modeling it uses to develop these estimates, which was confirmed by a 2018 report from the United States Geological Survey, found that the long term emissions from the production and combustion of fossil fuels due to the federal leasing program are equivalent to over 20% of total U.S. total emissions.  And these leases are particularly detrimental because they threaten more sustainable businesses centered on outdoor recreation in places like the Slickrock Bike Trail in Moab, Utah, where visitors pedal through petrified sand dunes and ancient seabeds.

Leases at Bargain Basement Prices

According to experts, these Trump Administration leases are being offered “at bargain-basement prices” due to a glut in U.S. oil and gas supply — the more we lease the more we drill and that drives up supply and cuts the price, which then results in even more drilling in order to make enough money to essentially keep going.

“We’re in an era now where fundamental questions need to be raised about whether there should be more leasing or not. Millions of acres are already under lease that are not being developed,” David Hayes, former deputy secretary of the interior department under President Barack Obama told The Guardian, “So why is the administration going so hard and fast over putting additional acreage up?”

According an independent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office in 2016, the government could make much more money — up to $1.2B over 10 years, by changing the leasing rules to set terms that are more advantageous for the government or to raise the minimum bid, the fee on nonproducing leases, or the royalty rate for all leases.

Where Are the Leases?

The Trump administration has offered more than 461 million acres of public lands and waters for oil and gas leasing and, according to The Wilderness Society, it is actively seeking to “suppress disclosure of the full sweep of these emissions” by changing the rules regarding what must be disclosed to the public about pending leases.  According to The Wilderness Society, the 9.9m acres leased, 2.2m acres are in Wyoming and 1.3m acres are in Alaska, while almost the largest blocks — nearly 5m acres — are offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, told The Guardian that “at the broadest level, what we’re witnessing is a sort of wholesale turnover of America’s Arctic to the oil and gas industry”.

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