Guest opinion: NIMBYs lock up public lands, hurt us all
Most of us understand that our government, just like our households, needs to bring in more money than it spends or it is going to go broke. The United States’ No. 1 income source is income and corporate taxes. No. 2 is leasing/royalty income from lands and mineral interests that the United States government (primarily through the Department of Interior) owns.
If the U.S. does not get this revenue, it will have to come from higher taxes (us). These royalties come from leases that are auctioned by the Bureau of Land Management to the public (including oil companies) in 10-year increments. These leases generate billions of dollars for the federal government.
If, the lessee is very lucky, and there is gas or oil or coal under the lease, and the company that acquired it is willing to take the risk of drilling a several-million-dollar well and strikes oil, and then invest in millions more dollars in infrastructure, that company may make some great money. If a company successfully drills, the federal government will get 12.5 percent of the company’s (gross) revenue forever, without ever investing any bit of capital into the project.
Most leases expire worthless (means the oil company lost all their money to the U.S. Treasury) after 10 years, because it was unfeasible to drill during those 10 years and the investment was a complete loss (companies often bid thousands of dollars per acre for leases that expire). To make up for the majority of the complete losses, there has to be an incentive for the companies to keep leasing lands all over the U.S. that may get successfully drilled someday. This has been going on for decades, and it has been a win-win situation for almost everyone involved.
Everyone except those who have decided that their backyard is much more important than any other place on Earth. Much too important to contribute their fair share to the energy demands of the world, so they cherry pick the facts to make it sound like a huge conspiracy or scandal.
Then, if our elected officials do not agree with their latest outrage, it has to mean that the official is in the pocket of the company trying to make energy for us to use. Then they enlist ranchers, hunting outfitters and others to their cause, but you folks will be next — your methane-producing cows and bloodthirsty hunting clients will have far less sympathy than an actual oil well does to these people after drilling gets eliminated.
Just look at the efforts already against “welfare ranching” (their opinion of grazing leases) and the efforts to reintroduce wolves (end of ranching here). Just last week the headlines were about a longtime local sheep rancher losing a million-dollar lawsuit to a mountain biker that rode her bike through his herd.
Our wise forefathers did not intend for the BLM to lock up this land to be a playground for future activists. They knew that all wealth comes from the earth, and they did not intend to put 75 percent of the Western United States’ potential wealth out of production forever.
They intended it to be a land of multiple uses, with the expectation that the lands would be used for grazing, logging, mineral extraction and tourism. Drilling can be done sensibly and sensitively. To void BLM leases in which people have invested money is nothing but a government taking; hopefully the BLM will step up and quit participating in this illegal action to void existing contracts (leases).
Kent Jolley is a Glenwood Springs resident.
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