Fact-Checking the Energy Discussion in the Second Presidential Debate

While Romney views approval of the tar sands pipeline as a "no brainer" because it will contribute to America’s energy independence, we’ve been reporting the other side of the story for years.

For the past month, a courageous group of people have been sitting 80-feet high in the trees to block the progress of the pipeline’s southern route in Texas, which President Obama approved. Some of them have been arrested.

TransCanada has even used to eminent domain to plow through private property against the owner’s wishes.

The pipeline, which has ruptured hundreds of times in Canada (and the devastating spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River) would cross nearly 2,000 US waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides a third of the irrigation water for US farmland. 

Tar sands oil won’t bring down US gas prices – studies show it would raise them. The US is simply a conduit for the oil, which will be exported after reaching the Gulf. And TransCanada won’t even pay taxes.

Obama’s fuel efficiency standard, which unbelievably, Romney would repeal, saves more oil than the Keystone XL pipeline could pump in 45 years, says Bold Nebraska.

Most importantly, tar sands extraction emits triple the carbon emissions of conventional oil, while destroying one of Earth’s most important, most biologically diverse carbon sinks, Canada’s Boreal Forest.

"Gov. Romney is turning his back on American landowners with his support of a risky, tar sands export pipeline," says Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska Director. "We need a new energy policy, one that respects property rights, protects water and starts the transition to  clean energy economy. While the Keystone XL pipeline might be part of an "all of the above" strategy it destroys our environment and allows a foreign company to use eminent domain on Americans and that is simply wrong."

A tar sands pipeline that would run west through Canada to the Pacific coast for export is also running into significant trouble, recently being declared "dead." Enbridge will keep pushing for it, but citizens and local governments are all against it.

About That Lack of Energy Development on Public Lands

The Obama Administration just announced sweeping approval for solar development on public lands, but that didn’t come up in the fossil-fuel dominated debate.

Talk about energy independence: seven nationally significant solar and wind projects have been fast-tracked, and one of them, the biggest wind farm in the US, was just approved. The administration is also moving forward on offshore wind in public waters through the "Smart from the Start program.
 
Here’s what Climate Progress says after checking the facts.

by Christy Goldfuss

In last night’s second Presidential debate, President Obama and Governor Romney had a heated exchange about energy development on public lands. The fact checkers immediately stated that Mr. Romney’s number one statistic – that production of oil on government land is down 14 percent – was misleading. The truth is that oil production on Federal lands is up from the previous administration. But that is far from the full story.

Governor Romney and his lead energy advisor, oil and gas tycoon Harold Hamm, have repeatedly stated that oil and gas development on public lands has not kept pace with state and private lands. They conveniently leave out the fact that it is not geologically possible for that to happen.

The Energy Information Agency released a map that shows the vast majority of current oil and gas shale plays in the lower 48 states are not on public lands. As EIA administrator Adam Sieminski noted in Congressional testimony in August, "The geology is working in favor of non-federal landowners."

This is backed up by the fact that the oil and gas industry itself has asked the government for fewer public lands on which to drill. As the price of natural gas dropped, there was a dramatic decline in the amount of public land nominated by the industry for leasing.

Since fiscal year 2006 (during the Bush administration), there has been nearly a 67 percent decline in the amount of onshore public land nominated by the industry in the Rocky Mountain States. As one industry expert told The Wall Street Journal, "It is safe to say that there will be fewer natural gas wells drilled in 2012." However, Governor Romney fails to recognize that the Bureau of Land Management cannot lease or permit lands that the industry does not request.

The Federal Government under President Obama has done its part to grant the oil and gas industry access to the acres with the best quality oil and gas resources. For example, the Bureau of Land Management held three of its five largest oil and gas lease sales onshore in 2011.

While Governor Romney was quick to point out that much of the boom in oil and gas production in the United States comes from Bakken Formation in North Dakota, the numbers show that under President Obama the Bureau of Land Management has leased, permitted, and drilled more on North Dakota’s public lands than under the previous administration (see graphic below).

Public lands owned by all Americans are inherently different than private lands. In many cases, by law, the land management agencies are required to manage for multiple uses – including hunting, fishing, grazing, hiking, recreation, and not just energy production. As a result, an "all of the above" energy strategy cannot mean an "all of the acres" strategy.

Governor Romney stated earlier this year that he did not understand the "purpose" of public lands. But since that time he has released an energy plan that defines their purpose as supporting the oil and gas industry. The plan would give states control of energy development decisions on Public Lands, which would threaten 30 national park units including the Everglades and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Such a plan also threatens the 6.1 million American jobs nationwide created by the outdoor industry and ignores the very premise of public lands. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, America’s great natural resources "must be used for the benefit of all our people, not monopolized for the benefit of the few."

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Christy Goldfuss is the Director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

This first appeared on Climate Progress.

Read about Romney’s Energy Plan:

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