What If Our Energy Stayed In the Ground?

Sep 12, 2016 - 9:00am

President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


An oil rig worker in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.
An oil rig worker in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.

We’ve heard lots of rhetoric during this campaign from anti-energy candidates and “Keep It in the Ground” activists about their desire to restrict or even ban oil, gas, and coal production on federal lands and waters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wondered what would happen if they got their way. And the results aren’t pretty.

A new report from the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy titled “What If Energy Production Was Banned on Federal Lands and Waters?” found that banning energy development on federal lands would cost the United States $11.3 billion in annual royalties, 380,000 jobs, and $70 billion in annual GDP. Nearly 25% of America’s oil, natural gas, and coal production would grind to a halt.

It would be particularly devastating to energy-producing states out west and in the Gulf of Mexico region. For instance, Wyoming would lose $900 million in annual royalty collections—which represents 20% of the state’s annual expenditures.

New Mexico would lose $500 million—8% of the state’s total General Fund revenues. Colorado would lose 50,000 jobs. The Gulf States, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, would see 110,000 fewer jobs.

Does that sound like a prescription for economic success, enhanced global competitiveness, lower prices, and greater national security?

Unfortunately, this is the road we’re headed down. Since 2010, the share of energy production on federal lands has dipped because of increasing regulatory hurdles from the Obama administration. The White House even imposed a blanket moratorium eliminating the leasing of coal on federal lands. More than 20 lawmakers in the Senate and the House support the Keep It in the Ground Act, which would ban oil, natural gas, and coal leasing on federal lands as a first step toward banning fossil fuel production everywhere. As our report indicates, massive job losses, a substantial decline in royalties, and slower growth are the logical outcomes of these policies.

The Energy Institute’s report is the first in its Energy Accountability Series, which takes a substantive look at what would happen if energy proposals from candidates and interest groups were actually adopted. We believe that it’s important for the public to understand the real consequences of such proposals.

We hope that our reports will prompt voters to ask questions and pay attention to the stances that candidates have taken on energy. A “Keep It in the Ground” agenda like some advocate for would force our country to surrender the enormous domestic benefits and global competitive advantages that increased energy development here at home has made possible. Visit EnergyXXI.org to learn more.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donahue
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.