Interior head: drilling on public lands could make US "dominant" power

Federally protected lands would be a great source of oil and natural gas, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters Friday.
By Lucas Rowe | Jun 21, 2017
Federally protected lands would be a great source of oil and natural gas, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters Friday. He outlined a plan to open up large swaths of government-owned conservation areas to drilling.Doing so would make the United States not only energy independent; it would make it a "dominant" energy source globally, he said

"There is a social cost of not having jobs," Zinke said. "Energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage our aggressors, or in some cases our enemies."

The United States extracts only limited amounts oil and gas from its federal lands now. While domestic energy production grew significantly in the Obama years, most of the new extraction took place on private lands, and the Obama administration closed off large amounts of federal land from development. Only a fifth of U.S. oil came from federal lands in 2015, compared to one-third in 2005.

Zinke indicated that he will seek to undo Obama land protections and encourage more widespread industrial energy activity. He issued a first recommendation toward that end last week by advising President Trump to reduce the 1.35 million-acre Bear Ears National Monument in Utah, whose borders Obama had designated in his last days in office.

He is currently reviewing 27 other national land reserves that cover a total of millions of acres in the West and said he will make similar recommendations on many of them. Six of these reserves are thought to hold oil or gas, he said.

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