Go home, Interior, you’re drunk

Greenworldrising.org is an excellent four part series of videos about climate change, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and written and produced by Thom Hartmann. The videos and more information about their efforts can be found on their website (video #2 is especially impactful).

As scientists analyze their data about how quickly our planet is warming, they continue to identify new, dangerous feedback loops which are ramping up the severity of the situation (for example, scientists have identified a wave phenomena made more extreme by the newly-open waters in the Arctic, which has hastened the demise of remaining Arctic sea ice). To be clear, there is NO debate amongst real scientists about the fact that the habitability of this planet is balanced on a razor’s edge.

If you watch the Greenworldrising videos and appreciate what we’re up against, and then, for example, read this press release from the Department of the Interior, you can see that there is an enormous disconnect between what we know we should be doing and what we are actually doing:

Interior Department Seeks Public Dialogue on Reform of Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Regulations_Page_1 Interior Department Seeks Public Dialogue on Reform of Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Regulations_Page_2

So, what’s going on here? To be honest, I don’t know. They make it SOUND like they want to raise the cost of doing business for gas and oil companies (except for one suspicious reference to “market rates,” which have, of course, decreased) who plan to access public lands in order to drill and extract from them. But I’m not sure. That would definitely be counter to business-as-usual at the Department of the Interior, which works hand in hand, leasing and selling off every bit of land or offshore property that they can get their grubby mitts on.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Department of the Interior, they oversee and manage public lands, like the Grand Canyon, national parks, and offshore property belonging to the United States. They also issue permits and hold corporate lease sales enabling fossil fuel companies and mineral extracting companies to bid and acquire rights to mine for natural resources. In exchange for winning the ability to extract gas, oil, precious metals and minerals, etc., from your public lands (including parks), companies must pay the US government to the tune of billions of dollars per year in revenues. This means that the US government is essentially hooked on petro-dollars.

And if you’ve ever wondered why we don’t see windmills everywhere, and solar panels on everything, even though we are in the final death throes of our planet’s habitability, that’s because the government can’t charge you for the sun, or the wind. At least not in a way that they can make really big money off of it. Yet. The oil and gas revenue stream is astounding. The Department of the Interior recently updated the website which posts revenues received through oil, gas and mineral lease sales. You can, if you squint, see a few bucks earned through renewables, but it’s not even a drop in the huge bucket of money that comes into the Treasury. Here is the website which details revenues received through the Department of the Interiorand if you scroll down, you can really look around their site and see the breakdown of funds which comprise the $127 billion dollars from gas, oil and other precious resource lease sales, bonuses, and royalty payments between the years 2003 to 2013. “Bonus” earnings are sort of like a “tip” that a winning bidder pays for the ability to start extracting their natural resource of choice. Since the Department of the Interior cannot immediately earn a percentage of revenues on a drill site which, for example, might take several years to begin producing gas or oil, they have other ways of jump-starting the payoff process.

Now let’s go back up to the Department of the Interior’s press release announcing that Sally Jewell wants to discuss, in a “candid way,” how we proceed in the future when charging oil and gas companies to mine our nation for profit.

After reading the press release at the Department of the Interior’s website, I went to the Regulations.gov website to see what had already been submitted and came across this comment by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) asking that the deadline for public comment be extended (you can go to the PDF file at the bottom of the link to read their request). The audacity of them continuing to ask for more favors along with more TIME to comment brought to mind something I recently read in Desmogblog.com about the fossil fuel industry essentially controlling the content and direction of an EPA study on fracking, managing to bog it down and continually narrowing its scope to the point that it ended up meaning nothing. With that in mind, I submitted this comment about the API & IPAA’s joint request:

Regulations.gov - Your Receipt_Page_1 Regulations.gov - Your Receipt_Page_2

It will take about a day for them to decide if they’ll accept my comment and post it along with the other 4. I think there’s a 50/50 chance that they will. They may tell me that because I’m actually commenting on a comment, it’s not acceptable. We’ll see. Either way, I think I got my point across.

If you would like to submit a comment to Interior (via Regulations.gov) about the ridiculous subject of how they set fees for oil and gas leases, and to whom they issue leases, feel free. Considering that the scientific community tells us that we must leave the carbon in the ground...not extract and not burn what’s down there, this whole thing is madness.

I may add another, more relevant comment before the deadline, although I am highly doubtful that it matters. I can’t decide if it would be better if they didn’t even ask for comments in the first place. They never seem to use them anyway. Psychology 101 class from my college days says that they ask for comments because if they didn’t, people would be up in arms. What do you think?

UPDATE: They did, indeed, post my comment on the Regulations.gov site. Kinda surprised.