Public Lands to the Rescue: How Renewable Energy Development on BLM-Identified Priority Areas and Oil & Gas Diversification can Mitigate the Climate Change Crisis

Public Lands to the Rescue: How Renewable Energy Development on BLM-Identified Priority Areas and Oil & Gas Diversification can Mitigate the Climate Change Crisis

Lindsay Rostron

In the wise words of Bob Dylan, “for the times they are a-changin’.”[1] One of these big changes is in energy development, production, and consumption.[2] Regardless of political views, burning fossil fuels is not a sustainable energy source. Society needs a more viable resource for energy consumption to match the digitized industrial era of today and the future.[3] Moreover, man-made, artificial global warming is becoming harder to ignore, giving cause for realistic concerns for a climate change crisis. Scientists attribute burning fossil fuels as a leading contributor to this crisis.[4] Drastic changes are needed—now—to help mitigate the effects of global warming. Shifting energy development and production from finite, nonrenewable, carbon-containing resources to more sustainable, greener, renewable resources is a real-time solution that will help achieve ambitious net-zero and decarbonizing goals in the United States. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already identified priority areas of public lands suitable for renewable energy development.[5] Oil and gas companies can utilize these lands to diversify, avoid another collapse like the coal industry, and increase public trust; while simultaneously combatting the climate change crisis one solar panel at a time. Ultimately, new legislation can expedite and make this happen. This will allow oil and gas companies to repurpose skilled laborers, shift from fossil fuel reliance, help alleviate global warming, and still maintain environmental health for public enjoyment. Renewable energy development on public lands is a vital, proactive solution for a twenty-first century energy and climate problem to help ensure a brighter, greener future.

This Note discusses a business case of how oil and gas companies can diversify to advance renewable energy development and production on BLM-identified priority area, public lands via proposed new legislation. This will help public policy goals of slowing down global warming, and can help prevent a dilemma like the coal-industry collapse with specially trained, displaced workers.[6] Part I discusses the history of energy development on federal public lands via the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and how development of certain resources has contributed to global warming. Part II analyzes how Congress should pass new “smart from the start” legislation to capitalize on BLM-identified public lands suitable for renewable energy development. Part III concludes that Congress should pass a law like the pending Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) to ensure job and energy security to the oil and gas industry and the public as a whole.

[1] Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changin’, on The Times They Are a-Changin’ (Columbia Studio A 1963).

[2] See generally 1 Ctr. for Strategic & Int’l Stud., The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century, An Overview and Policy Considerations 5–6 (2000) (“Energy supply will need to be expanded substantially to meet [the] demand growth.”); see also, e.g., Int’l Renewable Energy Agency, A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation 15 (2019) (“Rapidly growing renewables have unquestionably started to transform the global energy landscape in an irreversible way.”).

[3] See Jeremy Rifkin, The Green New Deal 15–16 (2019) (chronicling the different industrial revolutions from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries—highlighting the present day digital and automation revolution); see also, e.g., Kimberley Ward, Timeline of Revolutions, Mfg. Data Summit (Feb. 18, 2019), (depicting the current Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, revolution, an industrial revolution powered by renewable energy sources in a world of large-scale, smarter, and smaller digitalization, predictive analyses, AI, etc.).

[4] See Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: The Facts, ClientEarth (Feb. 18, 2022), (“Fossil fuel companies remain huge polluters, producing and selling fossil fuel products while scientists say we need a mass switch to renewable energy.”); see also, e.g., Fossil, Dep’t of Energy, (last visited Mar. 18, 2022) (“Over the past 20 years, nearly three-fourths of human-caused emissions came from the burning of fossil fuels.”).

[5] BLM’s National Renewable Energy Strategy, Bureau of Land Mgmt., (last visited Mar. 18, 2022); see also Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act, H.R. 3326, 117th Cong. (2021) (pending legislation for an act allowing streamlining of renewable energy development on public lands).

[6] Energywire, Thousands of Coal Workers Lost Jobs. Where Will They go?, Energy News Network (June 25, 2020),

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