Biden Education & Energy Plans At Odds?

Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to announce the third part of his economic plan today which will  focus on building “a robust 21st century caregiving and education workforce.” However, any plans to build a better education workforce could be undercut by Biden’s pledge to ban new natural gas and oil permits on public lands – a key revenue stream for many state education programs.

  • The Washington Post: “a fossil-fuel moratorium on public lands could eventually deprive state governments of revenue streams from royalties used to fund schools…”
  • Reuters“Nationwide, states received some $9 billion from public lands leases [in 2018], with much of it going to their education systems, according to Department of Interior data.”

Natural gas and oil production on federal land and offshore areas generated nearly $10 billion in federal revenue in 2019, with states receiving over $2.4 billion in disbursements. Over the past four decades more than $314 billion in mineral leasing revenues has been shared.

In many areas, a ban on new drilling on federal lands would increasingly erode an important source of state and local tax revenues used to fund public schools, especially in the West where 47% of all land is owned by the federal government.  In New Mexico, where about two-thirds of drilling is on federal land, Reuters reports that “more than $1 billion of the state’s $2.4 billion in oil-and-gas revenue goes to public schools.” For context, the total state budget is about $7 billion.

  • New Mexico’s Democratic Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham: “Without the oil and gas industry, without the energy effort in this state, no one gets to make education the top priority moving forward.” (Reuters, 11/1/19)
  • Jessica Sanders, a science teacher in Rio Rancho, sees the impact in her classroom, which until the recent improvement in funding lacked basics such as enough writing implements, projectors and computers for students. “When people talk about shutting down the oil and gas industry, I don’t think people are seeing how that will affect me and my students’”, she said. (Reuters, 11/1/19)

Policymakers should not overlook the reality that an end to new oil and gas drilling on federal land also means an end to billions of dollars in funding that benefits state education programs.