- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The “keep it in the ground” fossil fuel strategy described by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a “done deal” would kill more than 380,000 jobs and deliver a $70 billion annual hit to the economy, according to a report released Wednesday.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy found that banning fossil fuel production on public lands and offshore waters would result in a loss of $70 billion in annual gross domestic product as well as $11.3 billion in royalties, along with massive direct and indirect job losses.

Hardest hit would be Western states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, along with states with shoreline on the Gulf Coast.

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“American voters deserve to understand the real-world impacts of the proposals that candidates and their allies make,” Karen Harbert, institute president and CEO, said in a statement.

The report was released as Mrs. Clinton faces intense pressure from the Democratic Party’s environmental arm to embrace the “keep it in the ground” movement, led by advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and 350.org, just as Sen. Bernard Sanders did during his presidential primary campaign.

In February, environmentalists asked Mrs. Clinton whether she would support a policy to ban all fossil fuel development on public lands. She replied, “Yeah, that’s a done deal.”

“[T]hat’s where the president is moving. No future extraction. I agree with that,” Mrs. Clinton added in an exchange captured on video.

The Democratic Party platform approved in July stopped just short of calling for an end to fossil fuel development on federal property, but did vow to “phase down extraction of fossil fuels on our public lands” to combat climate change.

But even reducing production of “oil, natural gas and coal on federal lands would carry significant and wide-ranging negative economic consequences,” said the chamber report, the first in a series of papers on energy accountability.

The Obama administration has already curtailed oil, natural gas and coal extraction on public lands through its aggressive regulatory push, culminating in January with its moratorium on leasing federally controlled land for coal production.

Even though fossil fuel development on public lands has declined since President Obama took office, nearly 25 percent of all production is still carried out on land owned by the federal government.

“If that were to end, it would hit Western and Gulf Coast states particularly hard and could result in production moving overseas, which would harm our national security and impact prices,” said Ms. Harbert.

The report estimated that Wyoming would lose $900 million in annual royalty collections, or 20 percent of the state’s annual expenditures, and New Mexico could lose $500 million, about 8 percent of its General Fund revenue.

Job losses in Colorado were estimated at 50,000, and Gulf Coast states Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama stand to lose 110,000 jobs.

Climate change advocates have argued that the hit to fossil fuels from the “keep it in the ground” approach would be offset by expansion of the wind and solar industries.

House Democrats introduced in February the Keep It in the Ground Act, which would ban new leases on natural gas, coal and oil extraction on federal lands.

“There is an urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we want to protect the planet for future generations,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, California Democrat and the bill’s sponsor. “The Keep It in the Ground Act represents a crucial step that the federal government can take to protect the public, prevent carbon emissions and fight climate change.”

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a member of the Democratic Party platform committee, endorsed the bill. “Anyone who does the math of climate change knows we need to keep most fossil fuel underground,” he said.

“Public lands — as the Democratic presidential candidates have pointed out — are the logical place to start, and this is even more obvious in the wake of the Supreme Court stay on the president’s Clean Power Plan,” Mr. McKibben said in a statement.

About 25 states have challenged the Obama administration’s tighter emission limits under the clean power plan, calling them an infringement on state authority.

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