Big Oil Wants More Wildlands: But drilling more won’t lower gas prices

With the advent of spring, many Americans are looking forward to reconnecting with our lands. The oil companies, however, are looking forward to drilling on our lands.

With summer driving season just a few months off, the oil companies and their allies in Congress have begun to beat the drum about “more drilling.”  They say that it will lower the price at the pump, although that simply isn’t so.  In fact, the United States on an annual basis drills more oil and gas wells than any other country on earth. 

We’re even producing more oil today than we were in any of the Bush years – but that production has had zero impact on reducing prices.  Why? Because the world oil price determines the price of our gasoline at the pump, and that is affected by issues unrelated to our production, such as protests in the oil-rich middle east and rising demand from China.

While the oil companies loudly push for more drilling, there is something else they are happy to keep quiet. The oil companies are sitting on more than 29 million acres of onshore federal oil and gas leases that they are not even using – an area bigger than the state of Ohio, locked up by oil companies. And they are not only sitting on tens of millions of acres of federal leases they aren’t using, they also aren’t using  thousands of drilling permits that were issued to them last year by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management.

Oil rig. Photo by czangle, Flickr.If oil companies already have all these leases and drilling permits that they aren’t using, then they certainly don’t need action from Congress to “drill more”.  And drilling more wouldn’t lower the price of gasoline anyway.  That’s not really what this debate is about.  This debate is about whether we continue our dependence on expensive, dirty energy, or move instead to clean energy like wind and solar power that will be much cheaper and reliable in the long run.  

We don’t need “more drilling.” 

What we need instead is leadership from Congress to develop a 21st Century energy policy to get us off our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels altogether. It’s time to use other domestic energy sources to end our dependence on oil and natural gas, both foreign and domestic. That’s the fight that The Wilderness Society is helping to lead, and we hope you will join us in the fight to protect our lands from big oil. 

Gas station. Photo by karindalziel, Flickr.
Oil rig. Photo by czangle, Flickr.