Kathleen Sgamma: If we don’t drill for oil on federal lands, we’ll have to buy it from Russia



The budget reconciliation bill before Congress would, if passed with all the public lands provisions, drive oil and natural gas producers off federal lands in Colorado and across the West to other areas of the country or overseas. If passed as-is, it would achieve the President’s goal of “no federal oil.”

The dozens of policies put forward in the name of climate change may sound good to some. But does anyone think for a moment that reducing oil and natural gas produced in America is going to reduce their use overall?

Oil and natural gas account for about 70% of Americans’ total energy use. People aren’t going to stop driving their cars, charging their cellphones, or heating their homes. And the many so-called clean-energy policies in the bill won’t replace that energy overnight, if ever. Just look at California or Germany, which have had to increase their reliance on fossil fuels to avoid blackouts after years of policies favoring weather-dependent renewable energy. 

Indeed, the White House admits that oil and natural gas are critical as officials continue to ask Russia and OPEC to increase production to alleviate high prices. If that energy is imported from overseas, the greenhouse gas emissions will be generated regardless — and at higher levels because Russia and OPEC don’t have the strict environmental standards we have in the United States. Stopping the 20% of American production that takes place on federal lands and waters isn’t going to reduce energy prices or greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Some don’t want any production on federal lands, arguing that all public lands must be set aside. But development is not done in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes, or any other park or wilderness areas. It’s conducted on working landscapes suitable for energy development. Most of the federal development in Colorado is on the West Slope in areas that have been designated for multiple uses, not in areas set aside for preservation. 

Federal land management agencies, in cooperation with states, counties, tribes, conservation groups, and other stakeholders, determine which lands are appropriate for energy with input from the public over many years. These multiple-use lands sustain communities on the West Slope and across the West, including historically marginalized communities such as Indian tribes.

The Southern Ute Tribe in southwestern Colorado is one of the nation’s preeminent energy tribes that balance stewardship of their lands with economic growth. Although the bill applies only to federal lands, putting lands adjacent to the reservation off limits negatively impacts economic and job opportunities for the Tribe, an outcome that is neither environmental nor social justice. 

Production from public lands is some of the most sustainable in the world. Environmental standards are strict across the country, but even more so on public lands. Extra controls and protections are appropriate, since public lands and the energy beneath them belong to all Americans. We all have an interest in protecting these lands, and we in the industry take our stewardship very seriously. Companies often commit to even more restrictions and constantly innovate to reduce impacts, while voluntarily supporting conservation. 

For example, advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have reduced the footprint on the land by nearly 70% over the last decade. We produce more energy with less impact on the land than ever before. Less than 0.1% of all public lands have any oil and natural gas activity on them. Leased acreage remains at historic lows since 2018. We have achieved a balance on public lands that meets Americans’ energy needs while protecting the environment. 

Even better, federal oil and natural gas provide nearly all the conservation funding for national parks and other public lands. With the Great American Outdoors Act passed last year by Congress, $2.8 billion is available for conservation and infrastructure in our national parks and other public lands, including $32 million this year for Rocky Mountain National Park. The reconciliation bill before Congress would ensure that funding dries up. 

Why would members of Congress and the Biden Administration wish to drive production off federal lands and waters and send it to Russia and OPEC? Misguided ideology has gotten the country to the brink of putting the American oil producer out of business even as the White House asks unfriendly nations to increase production. 

We ask instead for a truce with the American producer. We call on practical members of Congress to recognize the madness of sending billions of dollars and millions of jobs overseas and reconsider the reconciliation bill. It makes no sense to disadvantage Colorado producers while propping up foreign adversaries. 

Kathleen Sgamma, of Denver, is president of Western Energy Alliance. She was the keynote speaker at last week’s Alaska Support Industry Alliance dinner.


  1. Sarah Palin would agree, Kathleen. Better to drill, baby, drill on our own property than to run across the Straits to our neighbors and ask them for a cup of oil.

  2. Well written. You cover the points I always think of, especially the fact oil development in the US is the one of the most regulated and one of the least intrusive to the environment in the world. If clean air is important, why send this production to countries where they don’t seem to care and/or just produce in the cheapest, quickest way regardless of the impact on the environment? SMH

  3. I’ve always been at a loss of how our domestically produced oil causes climate change while foreign oil doesn’t. A real head scratcher. Not until you realize how much money from foreign oil producers go into the campaigns, foundations, non profits, etc. of Democrats. Millions and millions were funneled into Hillary’s Clinton Foundation. Al Gore and know John Kerry also profit handsomely.

    • Oh, Jim, magically gas comes from the pump and electricity from the wall! We don’t need that nasty dirty black stuff out of the ground! Why we can run the world on unicorn farts and fairy dust! At least that’s what progressives believe (just read some of their comments). Reality is another dimension for them.

  4. Unfortunately it is that America needs a good long energy shock to return to our senses.

    Shut it down.

    Let fuel prices rise to the level where people walk to the store to buy the goods grown right in the store because it will be too expensive to haul food to the marketplace.

    It’s our duty to make that happen quickly so the survivors can make a new start.

    You voted for it. You got it.


  5. The writer and all the commenters just don’t seem to get it. They wonder why American communist/leftist/marxist/totalitarian/socialist/fascist liberals don’t understand how dismantling our domestic energy production will make us servile to foreign entities. The fact is, dependency upon, and subservience to, foreign entities is precisely what the leftists want. Their core agenda is to reduce our country to just another miserable communist state.

    • W. Douglas Coogan, Sir your comment is commendable, only it is a superficial summation of the real truth. Your Buddy, China Joe is reserving the oil on these lands, ostensibly because his ” greenie” fellow democrats believe that we will run Boeing 737-700 aircraft on solar and wind turbines and build bridges across the oceans. The real truth is, his Master, one Xi Jinping deems it to be so. Sounds far fetched? It isn’t. Name one thing Biden has done since taking office that didn’t strengthen Xi’s hand and weaken Americas? A good example is Biden’s reissuing the Roadless Rule in the Tongass. The Roadless Rule was to halt large scale logging, a practice that no longer exists. So why did China Joe reissue the roadless rule? Turns out that the Chi Coms control the Rare Earth trade, and there are Rare Earths to be mined on the Tongass. It sure looks like China wants to keep their Rare Earth Monopoly. I wonder what plans Xi has for the oil on our Federal Lands?

  6. That’s the point.

    To cripple us, make us in debt to others, and remove us from the world stage.

    A broke nation doesn’t threaten the oligarchs running it.

  7. Amen. Thank you Kathleen Sgamma for a well written voice of reason. Our country has been doing as much if not more than any other country for the environment. The countries that are the biggest offenders are not going to change and anytime even remotely soon our efforts to compensate for them (?) are a drop in the bucket. On our soils, the way we operate, extracting our fossil fuels and minerals are very clean industries. If we shut it all down here and increase our dependence on other countries, as the current administration seems to want us to do, we will be contributing to far lower environmental standards and increased pollution. We will in essence be making the ‘problem’ far worse.

  8. Would have been nice to hear her mention Alaska. I agree with her points, but there is more to this story in favor of oil & gas development.

  9. The irony is the billions in taxes collected in Federal drilling has funded the children who now are on committees to declare that American drilling is bad for the environment (and likely racist too!). We have fed the very ogre will now eat the rest of us.

  10. Frankly, I’d be happy just producing and refining enough to fill our needs here in Alaska, and let the west coast buy their oil from Russia.

    • Meanwhile, our cost of living would skyrocket worse than it is already because west cost energy costs will be reflected in all the commodities we depend upon from that region. Alaska is probably the least self-sustaining of all fifty states. Juneau used to have about six dairy farms. The only consumable we produce now is alcoholic beverages and even that depends entirely upon imports from west coast.

      • All that works for me, too. Get those costs up and winters long and cold. Our population needs to shrink.

  11. All of this common sense, reason and logic (expertly narrated by Kathleen) will unfortunately fall on deaf ears within this rogue // fake administration. Only when we as a nation have hit rock bottom, negatively and adversely affecting every citizen, will this situation change. Until then, pray and prepare accordingly.

    • Again… you just don’t get it. Communist underachievers are fine with abject poverty… as long as we all must experience that misery with them. What they cannot tolerate is guys like you exercising your liberties to elevate yourselves above them through diligence and hard work.

  12. No the Communists will continue to collect their government paychecks for producing little but hassles for people trying to make something positive happen.

  13. Should just call him China Jo as he is working for china Jo is destroying America deliberately and I see little push back from our elected representatives – In fact our “representatives” don’t do much to protect any of us. Like our transportation secretary they might as well be on permanent maternity leave.

  14. Cry us a river!
    Trying to drain the swamp, all you can do, Kathleen is lecture the masses?
    Your “electricians and engineers… Caterers and consultants… Communications gurus, construction experts and computer whizzes…bankers, educators and more; your “nonprofit trade organization… made up of more than 500 members providing more than 35,000 Alaskan jobs related to the oil, gas and mining industries.” (“https://www.alaskaalliance.com/about-us”)
    …can’t cough up money enough to buy lobbyists, politicians, oppo researchers; can’t organize an industry-wide strike to help congress see the light; can’t improvise, adapt, overcome to get what you want, so Plan B is lecturing the masses hoping they’ll forget their troubles and do what, exactly?
    Your sorry lot worries about Alaskans buying Russian oil, but not about Bill Walker giving away Alaska’s natural gas to communist China… remind again how this works?
    Your lazy lot may have to adapt to supporting oil and gas production in Russia until the current American Administration’s self-imposed socio-economic-poltical crises are resolved and war with communist China is either averted or over.
    Or you can go extinct when eager Russian-speakers line up to take your places.
    How about a lecture on that, Kathleen?

    • Morrigan,
      All this Focus on Mother Russia is misplaced. Your Enemy is China and like the old Soviet General once noted, “you can kill a million Chinamen a day and you still have three years work in front of you”.
      I agree with you Morrigan, these idiots do not realize the depths and enormity of the Chi-Com attack upon the USA. Biden is merely Xi installed Chi-Com Puppet. Watch his every move. Biden is an empty corrupted hollow shell carrying out his orders from Xi.

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