Seeing Through the POG: Federal Oil and Gas Leasing and the BLM Move

One of the things I like about Democratic administrations is that we can talk about issues without what I call a cloud of POG, or Partisan Outrage Generation. It’s hard to see through it when it is so prevalent. So I’m going to pick two issues that have aroused a great deal of concern and see what they look like without POG. Unfortunately, many media outlets and sources of journalism funding actually promote POG, so it takes some careful looking for articles to get past it.

1. Oil and gas leasing on federal lands. The WaPo had this story from November 19.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), a Biden ally, has said she would ask for an exemption from any leasing ban. Three New Mexico Democrats — Rep. Deb Haaland and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich — are all in the running to be Biden’s interior secretary, and they have differing views on whether to prohibit new drilling on public lands and waters.

Both Udall and Heinrich have expressed reservations about a total ban. In a recent interview, Udall called for setting a goal of “carbon-neutral” public lands, where the emissions from fossil fuel extraction could be offset by reforestation and other activities that remove carbon from the atmosphere. “That’s where we should be headed,” he said.


I like Udall’s idea with one addition. For those of you with a historic bent it’s a bit like the National Grasslands becoming an experiment station for the best practices following the Dust Bowl. It could be an opportunity to produce fossil fuels in as environmentally sensitive a way as possible- an experimental ground for innovation. We’re going to use the stuff anyway (and perhaps help other countries convert from coal to natural gas?), so we might as well be an example as to how to do it. I’m imagining a multi-university consortium with industry to develop and test best practices. Now Udall’s bonafides are a 98% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, so I don’t think you can attack him for being in the pocket of corporate polluters and all that familiar anti-R rhetoric.

2. Moving Some BLM Folks to Grand Junction.

This has been a target of the usual suspects; Center for Western Priorities, Grijalva, et al. Colorado Politics had this interesting POG-free article.

GRAND JUNCTION — Colorado U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper says he is urging President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary nominee to keep the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management in the Western Slope city of Grand Junction.

Hickenlooper met Tuesday with Deb Haaland, a Democratic U.S. representative from New Mexico, and invited her to western Colorado to “hear from the community firsthand” about why the public lands agency headquarters should stay, his office said in a statement.

The Democratic senator said that “I made the case that, done correctly, we can better protect and manage our public lands by having a BLM headquarters out west. I look forward to working with her when she’s confirmed as Interior Secretary to make this a reality.”

Hickenlooper sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will hold a hearing on Haaland’s nomination in the coming weeks.

The meeting came a day after Hickenlooper, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and Gov. Jared Polis met remotely with local officials to discuss a lobbying effort aimed at Haaland.

10 thoughts on “Seeing Through the POG: Federal Oil and Gas Leasing and the BLM Move”

  1. “We’re going to use the stuff anyway…”

    This is insanity. It’s like saying, “I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well be pleasant about it!” There is no way that “the emissions from fossil fuel extraction could be offset by reforestation and other activities that remove carbon from the atmosphere.” It’s a fantasy designed to allow us to spew GHGs while we’re heading right off the cliff. Show us some science (or technology) that supports a claim of functional CCS at scale by either trees or technology.

    The best available science is not partisan outrage.

    • Toby. Where I live most people heat with propane. It is unlikely that we will build out the electric grid with renewables fast enough for us all to convert our heating to electric in 10 years- even if people could afford to buy new furnaces and hot water heaters before the old ones die naturally- which many can’t. Similarly, combines and snowplows are not going to be replaced because we don’t have the technology to make them electric, nor enough biofuels currently. That’s what I meant. The food we eat, heating our homes, and transportation of everything we use is now depending on fossil fuels. We can change, but it’s going to take 1) technology and 2) time and 3) money.

      I disagree with you that the “best available science” says that we can quit tomorrow. So.. if we’re going to be using it anyway, why not from federal lands? You could argue that it’s easier on people’s health doing it there than on private land, closer to peoples’ residences.

      • Technology, time, and money cannot maintain our current level of consumption. We are not living in a Star Trek universe. We are in overshoot on the only planet we have. [I don’t know if this site takes URLs in comments, but I’ll try: ]

        You may be right that the best available science doesn’t “say we can quit tomorrow.” That question is irrelevant.

        BAS does clearly tell us that it is not possible to replace current levels of consumption of energy and material resources with renewables. Until we humans accept that there are limits—and acknowledge that there are too many people to support an American (or Australian, and probably not even European) level of per capita consumption globally—we will not be able to attain a sustainable level of consumption short of a horrendous collapse. Repeat: We are in overshoot; we are well over the limits of long term sustainability. How many scientists and peer reviewed publications does it take for people to hear this?

        Suggesting that we might as well use the GHG producing energy from federal land because we cannot immediately switch to ‘something else’ is a really bad policy position. Our descendants will not thank us for continuing to burn fossil fuels and consuming other resources beyond sustainable levels. The problem is not just climate change. Please watch the video in the link above.

  2. I have to agree with you, Sharon. 100%

    Plus I’ve figured Haaland would appreciate the BLM in Grand Junction. I guess this might be the first public reaffirmation of that location. Not everything from Zinke was bad.

  3. “One of the things I like about Democratic administrations is that we can talk about issues without what I call a cloud of POG, or Partisan Outrage Generation.” If I’m reading this right, it sounds like you are suggesting liberal outrage isn’t matched by the other side. Kind of odd, considering the massive cloud of Republican (energy industry financed) POG generated by Rep. Haaland’s nomination, and her “‘radical’ ideas that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline:”

    I will agree that Democrats are also prone to “bringing home the pork” with jobs for their districts, but at least that’s not the only thing they think about. And it’s unfortunate that those who will get the future jobs of a greener economy (but don’t know it yet) are not as motivated to vote for that as those who might lose their current jobs are motivated to vote against it.

    • Whoa, Jon, let’s do a thought experiment. If our former Senator Cory Gardner supported solar and wind (which he did) because they keep the lights on and the jobs feed babies (and provide tax $ for education, Medicaid, etc.) in Colorado, would we say his position is POG and “energy industry financed?” But no, we wouldn’t because solar and wind are… “good” and fossil fuels are “bad.” I don’t get campaign contributions but I would think it’s a morally difficult position to use fossil fuels and think at the same time that their production, and all the people who work in the industry are bad.

      I also have observed some interesting “news” stories about Haaland featuring quotes like in the LA Times article you linked:
      “In an op-ed in USA Today, former Sens. Mark and Tom Udall said Haaland’s record “is in line with mainstream conservation priorities. Thus, the exceptional criticism of Rep. Haaland and the threatened holds on her nomination must be motivated by something other than her record.”

      I’d ask the Udalls to do a thought experiment. Suppose an R admin had a Black Justice nominee who had earlier vowed to crack down on states who had legalized marijuana. If Coloradans of both stripes rose to defend the industry, would anyone say “questions about her nomination must be based on something other than her record?” I’m doubtful.

      The jobs part aside, I think Udall originally had it right. We are going to be using this stuff, so why not produce it ourselves?

      • I’m not sure which Udall you are referring to when, but maybe their current position is no longer biased away from “mainstream conservation priorities” by motivation for jobs (votes) in an energy producing district. But my main point was that I think it’s ridiculous to say Republicans are less POGgy than Democrats.

        • Hmm.. so it’s better to be biased toward jobs that don’t currently exist? (as per not yet available, or imaginary renewable energy ones?) Or not interested in jobs at all? Politicians shouldn’t be motivated by votes in a representative democracy?

          I didn’t actually say that R’s are less POGgy, but my experience with reading news stories is that media outlets tend to not notice or amplify POG from Ds and generate lots of outrage about R POG (a spiraling tornado of POG). All of which makes it difficult to discern the real issues.

          • I reread your intro and I see you could be referring to the media’s choices of what to cover, which is a huge topic in its own right. But assuming “mainstream media” takes its cues from the “mainstream” what the Ds do could be seen as less newsworthy to them than what the Rs do. (I’m sure Fox News will dig up some obscure statement by some obscure Democrat for a POGgy headline.)

            I do tend to question the idea that everyone voting in their individual best interest will always produce the best outcome for the greatest number, especially with regard to public goods like the environment. (And that’s before you throw in voter suppression and disinformation.)

      • “Both stripes” are not defending fracking on public lands. And I think her “mainstream” record against it is enough to generate Republican partisan outrage, so I think bringing race into this is counterproductive.


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