Wyoming Citizens Reap Bonanza from Energy Development

Published November 1, 2008

While consumers struggle with the high price of gasoline and worry about rising home heating costs, Wyoming citizens are reaping the benefits of oil and natural gas production.

In an August 5 auction, the federal Bureau of Land Management raised $14.3 million in leasing rights and rental fees for oil and natural gas parcels in the state of Wyoming. The auction adds to preexisting leases that generated more than $1 billion in government payments in 2007. The federal government splits leasing rights and rental fees 50-50 with state governments.

Wyoming’s share of the lease payments amounts to more than $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the state. State officials use the revenues to reduce taxes and fund state programs.

The Alaska state government distributes its oil and natural gas income by writing checks to its citizens. Alaskans received more than $1,000 each last year, while state officials retained substantial oil and natural gas revenues for state programs.

The economic windfalls for Alaska and Wyoming are inspiring residents of energy-rich Mountain West states to call for reducing restrictions on development of their bountiful energy resources. Oil shale deposits on federal lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming contain as much recoverable oil as at least six centuries’ worth of current U.S. oil imports from all countries combined, scientists note.

Congress has enacted a moratorium on oil shale production that prevents development of these resources.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.