The Numbers Don’t Lie – We Don’t Need More Drilling


To hear the oil and gas industry tell it, we just aren’t drilling enough.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be opened for drilling. Drill rigs should be set up off the coast in the Arctic Ocean, the North Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico, without improving the lax industry regulations that led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Pipelines, like the Keystone XL, should crisscross the nation, less than a year after a pipeline leaked into the Yellowstone River.

They even started a $100 million ad campaign, trying to influence the 2012 political candidates (an ad campaign that is brilliantly spoofed here).

But what happens when reality crashes in on their parade?  The latest figures from the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that oversees most drilling on federal lands, tell a different story.

Record Natural Gas production

2011 was a banner year for natural gas production on federal lands.  In fact, it was the banner year – with the highest royalty revenue from gas production ever recorded (which accounts for 2011 gas production and some production from previous years). The BLM also calculated returns on more than 5.3 million MCF (or million cubic feet, the unit of measurement for natural gas) produced from federal lands in 2011.

Lease sales also increased in 2011 – the oil and gas industry leased an additional two million acres of land (up from 1.4 million last year) and bought 2,188 new leases (up from about 1,300).

(Side note – the oil and gas industry spent $256 million on those leases, or about 2.5 times what they will pay for their advertising campaign…think about that the next time gasoline prices are over $4/gallon).

In the drilling world, a drilling permit is the last step before making a hole in the ground.  With a drilling permit in hand, no lawsuit, complaint, or federal agency rule or regulation can stop a company from drilling for gas and oil, which makes this next statistic a little surprising.  In 2011, the BLM issued over 4,200 drilling permits – but only 3,260 wells were actually drilled.  This continues a trend of oil and gas companies sitting on thousands of permits and not using them.  For an industry that continues to make claims that we aren’t drilling enough, it sure seems like they would use every permit.  Certainly there are some extenuating circumstances – but thousands of permits are sitting on the shelf!

The numbers show that the oil and gas industry is doing well without opening up sensitive wild lands to drilling.  They are posting record profits without fragmenting some of the little remaining unspoiled habitat. They still receive billions of dollars in tax breaks.

The numbers don’t lie – but when the oil industry and their Congressional allies claim that there needs to be more drilling in America, something doesn’t add up.


Related Stories:

The Sneakiest Anti-Environment Moves By House Republicans

Tell President Obama to Discuss Climate Change in His State of the Union

‘Job-Killing’ EPA Project Will Create 35 Times As Many Jobs As Keystone XL Pipeline


Photo credit: Gas well in Wyoming - BLM


David N.
David N6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Emily Drew
Emily Drew6 years ago

Dido Kimberely!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

Tell me something I did not know! END ECOCIDE!!!

Natasha Lopez
Natasha L6 years ago


Kimberly McMahen
Kimberly McMahen6 years ago

“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
― Chief Seattle

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

We also need to find some way to get the old fossil fuel firms to become the proud owners of equipment for producing energy sustainably--even if the federal government has to engage in deficit spending to buy the equipment and give it to the firms.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

The scientists at NOAA are honestly afraid of global warming--this is not just the old academic publish or perish rat race--this is raw fear that their grandchildren will starve to death because we are about to tip the world into a climate to which our food crops are very much NOT ADAPTED. We need to add about 10% of our current electric generating capacity worth of sustainably generated electricity each year for the next twenty years AND phase in HIGH excise taxes on greenhouse gas emissions to force consumers to conserve energy. We need to double our electric supply from about 1/3 of total energy to 2/3 while reducing our use of other forms of energy to half of current use. Because it is easier to generate electricity sustainably and substitute electricity for liquid fuels in transportation than it is to produce liquid fuels sustainably. We also need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and from both sewage and municipal solid waste, partly by making good use of the methane from sewage and manure and partly by eating more vegetables and less animal products. Most of the USA is NOT walkable or bikable.

Douglas J.
Douglas Jenner6 years ago

Look at the endgame -- a world where every mineral and energy resource has been extracted would be a world with an utterly ruined natural environment -- a world out of the "Mad Max" movie series, except that it will be real, not imagined. We must turn our world toward alternative and natural energy (biofuels, solar, wind)

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky6 years ago

The LOVE of MONEY is the basis for all evil.....think about it corporations and governments before you pass the invisible line of it being too late to change.

Tolga U.
Tolga U6 years ago

stop drilling u blood suckers!!!!