New Energy Frontier



America exports hundreds of billions of dollars each year to buy the oil we need to power our country. Our dependence on foreign oil threatens our national security, our environment and our economy.

As manager of one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and 1.7 billion acres off its shores, the U.S. Department of the Interior has the resources to help America produce more energy at home. These resources now provide 30 percent of our nation’s domestically produced energy, but we can do more.

Under the leadership of Secretary Ken Salazar, we are creating a new energy frontier – one that responsibly develops not only conventional but also renewable resources on our nation’s public lands.

New Energy Frontier Report

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Renewable Resources

As part of securing America’s energy future, we must move our nation toward a clean-energy economy. At Interior this means changing the way we do business by opening our doors to responsible development of renewable energy on our public lands. We are facilitating environmentally appropriate renewable-energy projects involving solar, wind and waves, geothermal, biofuels and hydropower. These resources, developed in the right ways and the right places, will help curb our dependence on foreign oil, reduce our use of fossil fuels and promote new industries here in America.

Solar

Within the Southwest, our Bureau of Land Management manages 30 million acres of public lands with solar potential. We have set aside 1,000 square miles of BLM lands in 24 solar-energy study areas and are evaluating these lands for appropriate development. These areas have the technical potential to generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of electricity or enough to power 29 million homes.

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Wind and Waves

Onshore, our BLM manages 20.6 million acres of the lands that hold the potential to generate wind power. Currently proposed wind-energy projects on these lands could generate more than 800 megawatts of new capacity, enough to power about 240,000 homes. 

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Offshore, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement manages the Outer Continental Shelf, 1.7 billion acres of federal-offshore lands with enormous wind-energy potential. BOEMRE has granted the first-ever exploratory leases for wind-energy production on the OCS and has established a framework for offshore renewable energy development. Research is also underway on two other potentially significant OCS renewable-energy resources, ocean-wave and -current energy. 

Hydropower

Hydropower is our nation’s primary source of renewable energy and costs less to generate than other electricity sources. Our Bureau of Reclamation is the second largest U.S. producer of hydroelectric power, annually generating more than 41 billion kilowatts of energy – enough to meet the needs of 3.5 billion homes. It is currently evaluating ways to further enhance its energy production.

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Geothermal

Half of our nation’s geothermal energy, energy produced through steam or hot water, occurs on federal lands. Currently, 111 million acres of BLM-managed public lands and 79 million acres of National Forest System lands are open for geothermal leasing.

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Biofuels

Our BLM manages approximately 69 million acres of forests and woodlands. About 16 million acres need restoration. BLM is increasing the use of small-diameter material from forestry, fuels and rangeland treatments and expects demand for biomass to increase as bioenergy facilities come online to produce heat, fuel or electricity.

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Conventional Resources

To move our nation toward energy independence while it builds a clean-energy economy, we must continue to develop our conventional resources in the right ways and in the right places. Oil, gas and coal form the cornerstone of our nation’s energy base and will continue to do so for many years to come. We at Interior are committed to responsibly developing these resources on public lands and to ensuring the American public receives a fair return on that development: 

Oil and Gas

The lands and waters Interior manages account for nearly 30 percent of America’s natural-gas production and more than 30 percent of its oil production. As we move our nation toward a clean-energy future, we will use sound science, wise policies, and the input of the public to determine how and where to develop these resources.

Coal

Interior-managed public lands account for more than 40 percent of our nation’s coal production. Efforts to develop technology to capture and sequester the carbon-dioxide emissions coal produces could enable our nation to use this plentiful domestic resource with fewer environmental impacts in the future.

  • The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for coal leasing on about 570 million acres of BLM, national forest and other federal lands, as well as private lands where the federal government has retained the mineral rights.   
  • The U.S. Geological Survey is beginning a national assessment of the geologic storage capacity for carbon dioxide in oil and gas reservoirs and saline formations. This effort will provide the foundational information needed to expand the technologies of carbon-capture projects and to understand impacts of such expansion. 
  • The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement works with states and tribes to balance our nation’s need for continued domestic coal production with protection of the environment.