In The Republican Reversal, we write: "In the 1980s, as conservatives gravitated toward the Republican Party and set in motion what would become the Republican reversal, they gave new life to an old theme in American history: the nation’s freedom depended on aggressively developing its abundant, God-given natural resources, not exercising conservation and restraint. Such a vision of abundance was a potent tonic for the emerging coalition that helped propel the Republican Party’s conservative ascendancy in the last quarter of the twentieth century."
During the Obama administration's second term, the federal government reduced offerings of public lands for oil and gas leasing and it began to tighten regulations on fossil fuel development as it set the stage for a transition toward a clean energy economy. In contrast, the Trump administration has given new life to western visions of abundance. In the past two years, it has moved swiftly to open up the public lands for resource development, mostly for oil and gas development.
In an October 27 article, Eric Lipton and Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times detail the Trump administration's campaign to throw open the public lands to oil and gas developers. At every step of the process, the Trump administration has weakened permitting requirements and provisions for environmental and public review in an effort to expedite leasing.
As Lipton and Tabuchi explain, the push for oil and gas on public lands is working: the administration has more than doubled the amount land available for leasing and onshore oil production on federal lands is on track to outpace any other year on record in 2018. But the costs will be significant: flaring natural gas is worsening local air pollution, the oil and gas industry uses large amounts of water also needed for ranching and agriculture, and rapid development poses threats for vulnerable species such as the sage grouse. Click the graph below to read their coverage.