Report: Big Oil Makes Billions While Society Shoulders Staggering Costs of Public Lands and Waters Drilling

Report: Big Oil Makes Billions While Society Shoulders Staggering Costs of Public Lands and Waters Drilling

Public oil and gas development would unleash at least $22.95 trillion of damage, imperiling a livable future for communities and the planet

WASHINGTON – Today, Friends of the Earth released a new analysis exposing the true social cost of carbon if the Biden administration continues allowing Big Oil to drill in our public lands and waters. This comes as the administration announced last week it would release a new five-year offshore drilling plan before June 30, when the current program expires, and is preparing to hold its first onshore lease sales next month.

The analysis used both the Biden administration’s social cost of carbon of $51/metric ton and a conservative metric of $100/metric ton, although most estimates are much higher, to find:

  • In 2021, public oil and gas development cost society between $23.4 billion and $46 billion, far outweighing the $9.6 billion in tax revenue.
  • Current onshore and offshore public leases would cost society between $2.19 trillion and $4.3 trillion if developed.
  • Potential federal oil and gas development would cost society between $22.95 trillion and $45 trillion if developed.


Although the American Petroleum Institute (API) and National Ocean Industry Association (NOIA)
warned that any delay in the Biden administration’s new five-year offshore leasing plan would result in dire economic consequences, based on their own figures:

  • A new five-year offshore leasing plan would cost society between $20.8 billion and $40.8 billion annually and result in 2.6 to 5 times more annual social costs than the projected revenue for state and local governments.


“Biden needs to remove his oil-tinted glasses and start treating oil and gas development with the extreme caution it deserves,”
said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director at Friends of the Earth. “Our sheer survival shouldn’t come second to Big Oil’s profits. If the administration is serious about staving off the worst of the climate catastrophe, the only road forward is no new leases.”

The social cost of carbon is used to estimate the economic damages of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Fossil fuel development not only costs society trillions in the form of air and water pollution, climate change, and other environmental degradation, but is also associated with public health problems such as cancer, asthma, and temperature-related deaths.

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]

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