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Can Climate Change be Addressed by Halting Drilling on Federal Lands?

A production-side approach to tackling climate change is the basis of new legislation by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The "Keep it in the Ground Act" would prevent new drilling for any fossil fuel on federal lands or renewal of nonproductive leases.
November 11, 2015, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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On Nov. 4, "Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley —joined by leading environmental advocates—introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act, major new legislation to help accelerate the transition to clean energy by ending all new federal leases for oil, gas or coal extraction on public lands and waters," states the senator's press release.

The Keep It in the Ground Act would:

  • Stop new leases and end nonproducing leases for offshore drilling in the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Stop new and end nonproducing coal, oil, gas, oil shale and tar sands leases on all federal lands.
  • Prohibit offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic.

In the background of the video that appears on the press release is Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, The other co-sponsors Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

"This bill is about recognizing that the fossil fuel reserves that are on our public lands should be managed in the public interest, and the public interest is for us to help drive a transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy future," Merkley said on a press call Tuesday, writes Katie Valentine, Deputy Editor for Climate Progress.

The bill does not address permits on non-federal lands nor the consumption side of fossil fuels.

The bill may have arisen from the anti-fracking movement wanting to go further than the regulations released by the Interior Department in March.

"These public lands are one of the easiest places for us to control the flow of carbon into the atmosphere," Bill McKibben, founder of climate action group 350.org, said in the Tuesday call, adds Valentine.

McKibben said the call to keep the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground can be compared to Brazil’s efforts to combat deforestation.

Is extracting oil or other fossil fuels from the ground the same as destroying a virgin forest? If oil doesn't come from domestic sources, will it not be imported from abroad?

Consider that the United States consumes 19.11 million barrels per day of petroleum products, far away more than any other nation. China is second, with 9.4 mbd. Production, while at an all-time high of 9.3 mbd of crude oil, makes the United States very dependent on crude imports for the foreseeable future.

How will the "Keep it in the Ground Act" affect those statistics other than reducing the second figure and increasing dependence on oil imports?

Hat tip: David McCoard, Sierra Club Energy Forum
Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 in Sen. Jeff Merkley Press Release
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