Fox Begrudges Solar Power A Tiny Slice Of Public LandJuly 25, 2012 5:32 PM EDT ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS
Fox News is criticizing the Obama administration for setting aside 285,000 acres in six southwestern states for solar development, suggesting the land should be used for oil and gas extraction instead. But the government already leases 74 million acres of federal land to oil and gas companies, and the Interior Department chose sites where fossil fuel drilling is unlikely anyway.
The Interior Department announced yesterday that it will establish 17 "solar energy zones" in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah as "priority areas" for solar projects. On Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade said that the administration has "not learned their lesson" from Solyndra (which was a solar panel factory, not a solar farm) and noted that "Republicans [are] saying that land would be better used for oil, gas and mineral drilling."
But let's put this in perspective. When President Obama took office, there was no public land provided for solar projects. The 285,000 acres set aside for solar development, and the 19 million acres on which solar projects could potentially be approved, are dwarfed by the 74 million acres (38 million onshore and 36 million offshore) currently leased for oil and gas drilling:
And as The Hill noted, the Interior Department selected land that would not otherwise be used for oil and gas development:
The areas selected in the plan minimize "resource conflict," Salazar noted, meaning they avoid regions where solar development would edge out exploration for other natural resources.
While Fox clings to the narrative that the Obama administration is stifling oil production, the facts tell a different story. Oil production on federal lands is up in recent years, and U.S. oil production overall is at an eight-year high. As the New York Times reported, the Obama administration has "liberally granted permission" for drilling, including a major lease sale approved earlier this week:
Administration officials have bent over backward to show their commitment to resource development on lands and waters that the federal government controls. On Monday, the Interior Department announced a 20-million-acre oil and gas lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico, and the agency has liberally granted permission over the past year for mining and drilling across the West, in the gulf and in Alaska.