As the global climate crisis intensifies, the urgency to transition away from fossil fuels has never been greater. The landmark Paris Agreement set out ambitious targets to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, a recent analysis reveals a concerning reality. For the coal, oil, and gas already under lease on public lands and oceans in the United States. They will also far outlast the point at which scientists predict the world will exceed these temperature targets. This revelation has led to a growing call for President Obama. That’s especially to halt new federal fossil fuel leasing. For it will prevent the release of up to 450 billion tons of potential carbon pollution into the atmosphere. In this article, we will explore the findings of the analysis. Also the implications for our climate commitments and the urgent need for action.

The Analysis: Over-Leased Fossil Fuels

The report titled “Over-Leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Outlast Global Carbon Budgets”. It was conducted by EcoShift Consulting for the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth. It clearly sheds light on the longevity of fossil fuel production. Especially on federal lands and oceans. Using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the analysis estimates the production horizons. That’s of federal coal, oil, and natural gas deposits. For they also already leased to the fossil fuel industry. All throughout in the United States. Federal fossil fuel leases ‍Image Source: FreeImages

Disturbing Projections

The analysis reveals that these deposits are projected to produce fossil fuels for a long time. That’s well beyond the dates by which, at current global emission rates. Then it will also be too late to avoid catastrophic global warming. Let us delve into the specific projections for each fossil fuel:
  1. Federal crude oil already under lease is estimated to produce for the next 39 years. That’s now extending through 2055. These production horizons extend 34 years beyond the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold. Moreover and 19 years beyond the 2-degree Celsius threshold set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  2. Federal coal already under lease is expected to produce for another 25 years. That’s now extending through 2041. This projection surpasses the 1.5-degree threshold by 20 years and the 2-degree threshold by 5 years.
  3. Federal natural gas already under lease is projected to produce for an additional 28 years, extending through 2044. This projection exceeds the 1.5-degree threshold by 23 years and the 2-degree threshold by 8 years.

The Impact of Continued Leasing

The implications of these projections are staggering. Each new federal lease and the infrastructure associated with it. For that locks in fossil fuel dependence for at least a decade. The report highlights the inconsistency between federal land and climate policy. Thereby demonstrating that there is already more public federal fossil fuel under lease than can be safely burned. The urgency to halt new federal fossil fuel leasing becomes evident. Especially when considering the potential carbon pollution prevented by doing so. Prior research estimates that ceasing federal fossil fuel leasing would remove up to 450 GtCO2e from future development. Moreover and prevent 100 million tons in annual emissions through 2030.

The Call to Action

The findings of this analysis strengthen the call to President Obama by hundreds of organizations to immediately halt new federal fossil fuel leasing. The responsibility to protect our planet for future generations falls upon our leaders today. President Obama has the power to safeguard his legacy. More importantly and our climate commitments by taking decisive action against the auctioning off of more fossil fuels on public lands and oceans. The Keep It in the Ground movement, which was once dismissed as naïve. For it is now supported by scientific evidence. The carbon that has already been leased must stay in the ground. Especially if we are to prevent large parts of the Earth from becoming inhospitable and uninhabitable.

The Scope of Public Land and Ocean Leases

To fully comprehend the magnitude of the issue at hand, we must understand the vast expanse of public land and ocean leases in the United States. The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and over 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf. These areas, including federal public land accounts for about a third of the U.S. land area.  More notably and oceans such as Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Seaboard. For they are held in trust for the public by the federal government. The administration of federal fossil fuel leasing falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.

The Combustion Conundrum

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has contributed to nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth reveals that the remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale, and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, approximately 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park, containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Legislative Efforts and Presidential Action

The need for action to curb fossil fuel leasing on public lands and oceans has been recognized by lawmakers and the executive branch. In response to the urgency, Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.), and others introduced the Keep It In the Ground Act (S. 2238) last year. This legislation aims to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Additionally, President Obama took a significant step by canceling the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, acknowledging the need to keep some fossil fuels in the ground to prevent further dangerous pollution.


The analysis of fossil fuel production horizons on federal lands and oceans paints a sobering picture of the challenges we face in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The projections indicate that without immediate action to halt new federal fossil fuel leasing, we will exceed the temperature targets set out in the Paris Agreement. President Obama has the opportunity to protect his legacy and the planet by heeding the call to keep it in the ground. The fate of future generations rests in the hands of today’s leaders, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we leave behind a planet that is habitable and sustainable for all. Let us act now to secure a greener and cleaner future for generations to come. Image: Source Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama from Friends of the Earth
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