Tags: Future Prosperity, Rural, Rural Affairs
SALT LAKE CITY (March 7, 2022) – Gov. Spencer Cox today sent a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging him to remove all obstacles to increasing U.S. oil and gas production. Read the letter below in its entirety.
Dear Mr President,
I appreciate many of the actions you have taken over the past two weeks to isolate Russia and support Ukraine, and I encourage you to consider additional actions, including removing all obstacles to US raising oil and gas production. This request will not surprise you. I have repeatedly urged your administration, well before this current crisis, to end your fight against American energy development on public lands. It is more important now than ever that the United States and our allies produce the resources that will enable the world to break free from dependence on Russia and other authoritarian regimes.
As a western public land state, we certainly have an interest in these resources being developed, but there is much more at stake than benefiting western communities. It is strikingly contradictory that US policy discourages European dependence on Russian-produced energy while refusing to lease and permit oil and gas development on our own federal land. Your Home Office’s anti-energy policies are not only economically destructive and ecologically reprehensible, but, as should be very clear by now, have serious geopolitical implications.
Europe’s energy dependence on Russia is at the heart of the long string of diplomatic failures that have enabled Vladimir Putin to threaten European stability. Putin will continue to use this dependency to his advantage as long as he holds European countries as “energy hostages”. Against this background, the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve seems patronizing unless we are willing to do whatever it takes to develop additional American energy.
America’s vast energy wealth, including the vast oil and gas reserves beneath the public lands of western states, could provide our European allies with the fuel they need to break away from Russian energy dominance. Increased oil and gas exports to European nations would allow our allies to lower their soaring energy bills, improve the reliability of their renewable energy-focused power grids, and shut down the Russian pipelines that currently enrich the Putin regime. Without a captive market for its energy exports, Russia would certainly have less political capacity to threaten its neighbors and fewer economic resources for military expansion.
To realize America’s potential as an energy exporter capable of dramatically increasing global supplies and offering options to our European allies, your administration must end its fight against public land energy development in western states, including Utah. We need renewed oil and gas leases on our public lands. We need support for the Uinta Basin Railway, which would increase Utah’s oil exports to Gulf Coast refineries to support both the domestic and European markets. We need the federal government to refrain from using overly restrictive landscape-scale designations that often block Utah’s energy wealth. And we need the federal government to improve regulatory processes and reduce bureaucracy to allow for the timely development of Utah’s resources by private industry. During the previous administration, the Bureau of Land Management granted an average of 115 leases per year for Utah oil and gas development. Even the Obama administration issued an average of 81 each year. Since taking office, the Bureau of Land Management has not completed a single oil and gas lease sale in Utah and has now canceled the small lease sale originally scheduled for later this month. It is high time for your government to support, not suppress, reliable power generation on public lands.
Additionally, for those who genuinely care about the environment and climate change, replacing American gas and oil with Russian gas and oil at home and abroad will have a significant impact on global carbon emissions. Their own energy minister has declared that Russian natural gas is “the dirtiest form of natural gas on earth.” This claim is supported by a 2019 study by the US National Energy Technology Laboratory showing that LNG shipped to Europe from the US would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas imported from Russia.
The transition to a low-carbon, green global economy will take time. Meanwhile, the world and European countries will continue to rely on oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels during this transition. As long as oil and gas production is global, the United States has a role to play because we produce oil and gas with far less environmental impact than our energy competitors in Russia, Venezuela and the Middle East. As America realizes its potential as an energy superpower, democracies around the world will benefit by doing business with another democracy rather than struggling under the thumb of energy-rich authoritarian regimes.
A similar dynamic exists in the extraction of critical minerals and rare earth elements essential to the manufacture of batteries and other clean energy technologies. Currently, China holds a near monopoly in both the extraction and processing of many critical minerals, despite the enormous potential for critical minerals among America’s public lands. Expanding domestic mining and processing capacity would liberate America from Chinese dominance over critical minerals and accelerate the adoption of green technologies, including electric vehicles. If the federal government is to achieve a green energy revolution, it must step up efforts to streamline permits, guarantee access, and remove regulatory barriers to facilitate exploration and development of critical minerals. Your government seemed to recognize this recently by announcing new initiatives around our critical minerals supply chain, but on the same day the Department of the Interior renewed its litigation against a major Alaskan mining project, which made me skeptical of the government’s sincerity and commitment to the Exploration of critical minerals made .
In discussions with your Cabinet, we have welcomed Minister Granholm’s enthusiasm for tracking critical minerals, but these efforts will fail without more coherent policies at both the Energy Department and the Home Office, where the regulator is based. Your administration needs to start saying yes to leasing and permits, even if it angers environmental advocacy groups, who will always find a reason to say no.
Expanding our leasing, permitting and development of energy and critical minerals into federal lands will not happen overnight, but to paraphrase the old adage, the prime time for American resource development was 20 years ago; the second best time is now. We must stop falling victim to the wrong decisions of extreme interest groups. To meet your own climate goals and improve the world’s environment, we must use the natural resources we find here at home.
As throughout its history, America finds itself in the difficult position of leading free nations beset by the challenges of expansionist authoritarian dictatorships. Just as America’s support of the United Kingdom through the Lend-Lease program during World War II was critical to Britain’s survival from Nazi onslaught before America’s formal entry into the war, we are likely to find ourselves in a situation where Europeans need American energy before they can protect against Russian aggression. The energy and mineral wealth of the western United States is a great starting point for providing our allies with the resources they need.
Spencer J. Cox
Download a copy of the letter here.