New Report Belies Need for New Oil and Gas Leases

President Bush has made increased domestic energy production, i.e., more oil and gas extraction from federal lands in the West, a centerpiece of his campaign, claiming it is the road to energy independence. His administration frequently proclaims the need to remove restrictive barriers to resource extraction. But a new report, based on Interior Department records, shows that since 1982 the federal government has leased some 229 million acres of land in 12 Western states for energy development, with no discernable effect on energy dependence. “Far from being blocked from access to the West,” said Dusty Horwitt, an analyst with the Environmental Working Group, which compiled the report, “these numbers show that this industry controls the West.” Despite the fact that less than half of this leased land is being actively used to produce energy, the Bush administration has pushed relentlessly for more leases, going so far as to create a federal task force that acts exclusively on behalf of oil and gas companies to speed leasing and development projects.