Despite President Joe Biden’s campaign vow to propel a “clean energy revolution,” the federal government continues to prioritize oil development over renewable projects on US public lands, a new report finds.
The analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress shows that, in western states, significantly more public land is available for oil and gas leasing than for renewables development.
That’s true even in areas that are better suited for solar, wind and geothermal projects than for drilling — a default position that gives fossil-fuel development a leg up over cleaner energy sources, according to Jenny Rowland-Shea, deputy director of the center’s public lands program.
More than 77% of renewable energy areas in the west are on lands with low oil and gas potential, though they remain open for oil and gas leasing, the analysis found. The contrast is particularly notable for public lands deemed highly favorable for geothermal energy — 83% of that territory has little oil but is nevertheless available for drilling.
The analysis underscores the tension in managing energy development on public lands that make up about a tenth of the US — particularly amid climate goals that will require vast more territory to play host to solar arrays and wind turbines. In a shift, the Interior Department last month scaled back available acreage in Biden’s first onshore oil and gas lease sales.