National Geographic : 2005 Jul
"We understand the need to drill. What we don't understand is the destruction of our ranches in the process." RANCHER LINN BLANCETT percent of the resource unavailable for leasing. Or, as some would sum up the situation, 88 per cent is up for grabs. Another issue: On BLM land nationwide, drillers are working fewer than half the leases they already hold. A study by the Wilderness Society, for example, estimates that of the 45,836 oil and gas leases supervised by the BLM, more than half were not producing as of last Febru ary. So what has been fueling the drive to poke new holes into the well-punctured crown of our continent when there already appears to be a surfeit of untapped leases? Some energy analysts I attribute it to the slow pace of domestic pro- ° duction in recent years, which, coupled with increased demand, pushed up the price of nat ural gas. Then, of course, there is the environ mental advantage that gas, which burns cleaner than coal, holds over its grimy fossil cousin. And finally there was and is the Bush-Cheney energy plan, drafted behind closed doors by a vice president and other insiders with private sector resumes reeking of petroleum. Out of this plan emerged the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining, conceived as a When drilling began 250 yards from Rick Weinheimer's Colorado dream house (left) in 2004, the peace, quiet, and local elk herd van ished, along with his property value. In Bloomfield, New Mex ico (above), a natural gas plant looms over the cemetery and everyday life, but generates jobs and taxes.