The Leasing of Federal Lands for Fossil Fuels Production

By Stephen L. McDonald | Go to book overview

1 Introduction

This study was undertaken on the premise that the greater part of the nation's remaining fossil fuel resources are to be found on lands, offshore and onshore, under federal jurisdiction, and that the procedures, terms, and conditions under which these lands are leased for minerals production will significantly affect the nation's energy economy for many years to come. It has been recently estimated that about two- thirds of our remaining oil resources and 40 percent of our remaining natural gas resources are located on the outer continental shelf. About 40 percent of the country's known coal resources are situated on federal lands in the West. About three-fourths of the acreage containing oil shale deposits with commercial potential consists of public lands.1 All these lands are leased, or are subject to lease by the Department of the Interior, to private operators under procedures, terms, and conditions prescribed by federal statutes and regulations. In view of the nation's energy problems and prospects, the question may be raised whether existing leasing practices and associated regulation of lessee operations contribute what they could to an efficient energy economy. We shall try to give at least a tentative answer to that question.

The granting of mineral leases on federal lands is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the Department of the In

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1
Statement of Harrison Loesch in Federal Leasing and Disposal Policies, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs ( Washington, D.C., June 19, 1972) pp. 35-37. A more recent ( 1975) estimate of oil and gas raources by the U.S. Geological Survey assigns about a third of these resources to the outer continental shelf. For various estimates, see Robert J. Kalter, Wallace E. Tyner, and Daniel W. Hughes, Alternative Energy Leasing Strategies and Schedules for the Outer Continental Shelf ( Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University, 1975) pp. 9-10.

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