U.S. Rep Ed Markey Will Appear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning. He will be joined on a panel with Red Caveney of the American Petroleum Institute, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Professor Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Rep. Markey will tout his Responsible Ownership of Public Lands Act and continue his call for Big Oil to drill on millions of acres of land they already own.
On June 12, I introduced the Responsible Ownership of Public Lands Act with Representatives Rahm Emanuel, Nick Rahall and Maurice Hinchey. At a time when consumers in Massachusetts and around the nation are paying more than $4 per gallon at the pump, oil companies are sitting on millions of acres of land that they hold the drilling rights to but are not producing on. They need to either use it or lose it.
There’s a myth that Republican Leaders in Washington and executives from the big oil companies are perpetuating: that Big Oil can’t get access to enough places to drill for oil, that we need to allow drilling off our beaches on the East and West coast and in our most pristine places such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in order to bring gas prices back down. However, this argument is nothing more than a drilling decoy.
The reality is that roughly 80 percent of offshore oil and gas reserves are located in areas where drilling is already allowed. Moreover, oil and gas companies right now own the drilling rights to 68 million acres offshore and onshore lands that they are not even using to actually produce oil or gas.. Offshore, Big Oil is producing on only about 23 percent of the land they hold, while onshore, companies are producing on roughly 27 percent of the acres to which they hold the drilling rights. Apparently Big Oil is more interested in pumping up prices and pumping up their own profits rather than pumping more oil and gas on the public lands they’ve been stockpiling.
Indeed, while Exxon Mobil has increased spending on exploration and drilling by $3 billion over the last five years, it has increased spending on schemes to prop up the price of its stock by nearly $26 billion per year during that same time period. Meanwhile, Exxon spent only $10 million investing in developing renewable technologies last year.
The Responsible Ownership of Public Lands Act would assess an escalating fee over time on land energy companies have leased but are not using for production. This fee would be a mere $5 per acre per year for the first three years of non-production but then increase to $25 per acre for the fourth year and $50 per acre in the fifth year and any subsequent years, providing a strong incentive for the oil companies to stop hoarding these leases and start using them.
The revenue raised from these fees will go towards developing renewable energy and investing in energy efficiency that will reduce our dependence on oil and reduce energy prices for American consumers. The revenue will also be used to fund the the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps permanently reduce energy bills for low income families by making their homes more energy efficient.
With oil companies continuing to sit on these millions of acres as the price of gas skyrockets, it is time to tell Big Oil to start producing or start paying. Big Oil is trying to play Uncle Sam for Uncle Sucker and we’re not going to allow it.