CBO: Opening All Federal Lands To Drilling Won't Do Much For The Deficit

Opening all Federal lands to oil and gas leasing has long been a point of political contention. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office put out a report, at the request of Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, that looks at the budgetary effects of immediately opening all federal lands to drilling.

According to the report, that would include two primary areas:

  • Lands where leasing is now statutorily prohibited, notably, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and
  • Onshore and offshore areas that are unavailable for leasing under current administrative policies, including sections of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)—generally, the submerged lands between 3 miles and 200 miles from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Florida coastlines—and certain onshore areas in which oil and gas leasing is either restricted or temporarily prohibited.

The CBO expects the United States to collect approximately $150 billion in gross proceeds from federal oil and gas leases over the next 10 years. Opening all public lands would add an estimated $7 billion to that total over the same time period. 

$5 billion of that would come from ANWR, and if the deal with Alaska is similar to past legislation, 50 to 90 per cent of it would go to the state. 

In the long run, the government could expect an estimated $2-4 billion extra in royalties from ANWR from 2023-2025, which would be split with Alaska in the same way. 

Ignoring environmental arguments for the moment, the issue is that there just isn’t that much oil that would be freed up in such a proposal. The CBO estimates that 70 per cent of undiscovered oil and gas on federal lands is already accessible under current law.

Here’s the CBO’s chart:

oil and gas on federal lands

Photo: CBO

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