Fiscal cliff is a terrible place for an oil rig



By now you’ve probably heard of the avalanche of spending cuts and expiring tax cuts known as “the fiscal cliff.”

The biggest issue facing the environmental community on the fiscal cliff is that the spending cuts will be devastating for environmental priorities and programs. The Wilderness Society is working to avoid these cuts. However, some House Republicans are proposing a different solution: more drilling in wild places.

The idea that we need more drilling makes some erroneous assumptions.  First of all, it assumes that land that doesn’t have a drill rig on it is worthless. The reality is that wild public lands are the backbone of a $646 billion dollar per year outdoor recreation industry. Nearly $40 billion of dollars go to the federal treasury – more than the $31.4 billion that Uncle Sam gets from oil and gas royalties. 

The idea that more drilling would create a boon of revenues for the federal government is not based in reality either. Let’s look at some facts to back this up:

  • Oil companies are sitting on more than 26 million leased but unused acres of federal land. If they want to drill more, they already have the land to do it.
  • The oil and gas industry has requested fewer acres of public lands, and a higher percentage of nominated acres are being leased. Nearly 90% of requested acres were offered for lease.
  • Drilling on every acre of our coast would, at best, get us $80 million per year. This is a pittance of what we would need in revenue.
  • The oil industry has increased the export of gasoline and other petroleum products from the United States by 200 percent in the last 5 years – with net exports topping 600,000 barrels of gasoline last year.

The House Republican members would also like to invest in oil shale, a hard, coal-like substance that can be melted into an oil-like substance. This process is incredibly expensive and has never been commercially viable, so there wouldn’t be any new revenue there. The House also wants to open up the pristine Arctic Refuge, which would endanger critical habitats and wouldn’t begin until at least 2030.

These are not solutions to a problem just around the corner like the fiscal cliff. These are their same tired solutions for every problem, from decaying infrastructure to high gas prices to federal debts. It isn’t a solution to the problems facing America. It’s a gift to an industry that makes over $100 billion in profits annually.

If we want to get serious about replenishing our federal coffers, the oil industry is a good place to start. While raking in large amounts of profits, they collect at least $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. An industry swimming in profits does not need a handout from Uncle Sam. It’s time to eliminate oil and gas subsidies. That’s a better solution to the fiscal cliff, not more drilling on our precious wild lands.