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 Exhibits: Resources: Energy


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    Power From Public Lands
View
An oil well in the San Juan Basin

An oil well in the San Juan Basin
Courtesy BLM

View
An oil well near Carlsbad, NM

An oil well near Carlsbad, NM
Courtesy BLM

View
Oil tanker filling up near Roswell, New Mexico

Oil tanker filling up near Roswell, New Mexico
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office

Public lands produce two kinds of energy resources: renewable and nonrenewable. Renewable sources are created by wind, water and the sun and can be used indefinitely, although most require careful management. Non-renewable resources include gas, mineral and oil deposits, which will only be replaced, if at all, in a future so far away as to be unimaginable. Currently only 10% of the world's energy is produced from non-renewable sources, although certain regions depend more on renewable energy like hydropower from the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

Since federally-managed lands contain a wealth of renewable and non-renewable resourves, different government agencies must manage mining, drilling, road construction, and other development by the energy companies. The US Department of the Interior oversees the licensing, called leases, for onshore and offshore drilling and for mining. Of these leases, the Bureau of Land Management manages nearly all for fossil fuels and minerals. Agencies outside the Department of the Interior which also administer energy production include the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Army Corps of Engineers, which oversee hydropower production on our country's rivers. The Forest Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture, manages drilling, mining, and logging on forest lands.

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    Two Kinds of Energy
View
A coal mine operating on BLM lands near Price, Utah

A coal mine operating on BLM lands near Price, Utah
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Office

View
Coalbed methane mining near Price, Utah

Coalbed methane mining near Price, Utah

View
Caribou National Forest, Idaho

Caribou National Forest, Idaho
Courtesy USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Region

We use mostly non-renewable resources, because right now they are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Of the 75.6 million acres of coal-bearing public lands, only 1 percent is currently being mined. As for oil and gas, energy companies are actively working between 18,000-25,000 wells on public lands during any given year, with tens of thousands more sites held in reserve. Petroleum is less abundant, with less than half of the oil we use coming from American reserves. A rarer mineral, uranium, is processed to create nuclear energy, which provides electricity to millions of homes, schools, and businesses. About one third of all oil and gas comes from public lands. In addition, public lands are estimated to contain about 68% of all undiscovered oil reserves and 74% of all undiscovered gas reserves in our country.

Even though we are still a nation rich in oil, gas, and minerals, as we face increasing populations and soaring energy needs, we must look more to renewable resources. Today, electricity created when rivers pass through dams (hydropower) accounts for 7% of all the electricity produced. The sunny lands of the western deserts are ideal for collecting solar energy with photovoltaic cells. Likewise, wind-blown plains are the perfect location for "wind farms," huge arrays of large turbines which generate electricity. Even geothermal energy, from hot springs and geysers, are used to create energy for our daily needs, particularly in California, where 4.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity was generated on BLM lands in 2000. Finally, our forests continue to provide inexpensive firewood for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces throughout the country.

Links for More Information

  Part Three--

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