Oil rig in Utah
courtesy of the BLM
The Obama administration leased more than 1.75 million acres of federal lands to oil and gas companies last year. This brings the total amount of federal land leased by oil and gas companies to just under 38 million acres – an area about the size of the state of Florida.
However, oil and gas companies are still just sitting on a lot of those acres – letting sit idle, rather than drilling them, but nevertheless complaining that they can’t get more. Only a little more than 12.5 million acres of leased lands are producing any oil or gas – leaving nearly 25.5 million acres of land locked up by the oil and gas companies.
For a sense of scale – oil companies have leased the equivalent of 11 Yellowstone National Parks that they aren’t using.
They are also continuing to let approved drilling permits sit idle as well; at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the industry was sitting on nearly 7,000 approved but idle federal drilling permits. Even as all of these lands and permits are going unused, Sen. Murkowski (Alaska) recently released a plan for energy in America that called for drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but didn’t address the millions of acres already leased that aren’t being drilled (Her plan mostly ignored renewable energy like wind and solar, and almost left out climate change entirely).
Oil and Gas Drilling in America: By the Numbers (all figures from the Bureau of Land Management unless otherwise noted)
- Public lands leased by oil and gas companies: 37,792,212 acres
- Public lands in production: 12,512,974 acres
- Public lands but sitting idle: 25,279,238 acres
- Number of producible wells on federal lands: 92,583
- Number of wells started on public lands last year: 3,022
- Number of idle federal drilling permits: 6,960
- Rank of United States in oil production: 3 (source)
- Rank of U.S. in natural gas production: 2 (source)