To clarify, although the US government would not be inclined to intervene if a mine or drilling right were transferred between private parties, a large proportion of exploitation deals involve public land. “These assets are held by the federal government as a public benefit and trust for the citizens. Stoellinger states that as the thinking of citizens has changed about how to use these resources, the laws should also change.”
However, they recognize that a law modification would be a highly political undertaking. There are many deterrents that the US politician could use to prevent non-use or conservation of exploitable federal land. These include communities that would oppose the loss in fossil fuel jobs and the loss of royalties revenue.
Some environmentalists might even object to the idea that public lands should be preserved for a fee. They might ask why the government wouldn’t ban drilling or mining.
Keep it in the ground
However, pro-active conservation purchasing does have precedent. Other areas of environmentalismIt is possible to change attitudes, rules, and laws.
Diverse groups have Land acquiredOr Water rights negotiatedIn order to protect wildlife habitats. Others have obtained grazing permits directly so that the land is not used in climate-intensive agriculture. Some campaigners have even outbid log companies. Montana timber leasesOr, you have successfully acquired it California fishermen may request trawling permits and vessels.
Harstad stated in his original paper a decade back that “paying for conservation of a territory” was not impossible. Environmental groups have already spent millions of dollars on political engagement and campaigning. Climate-conscious governments are also investing heavily in carbon reductions and alternative energy.
One more tool the world can use to ensure a just transition away fossil fuels is to buy up large quantities of cheap coal mines.
Greenpeace Nordic’s attempt to acquire the desolate landscapes created by Germany’s lignite mining sites may have been rejected. But it may only be a matter time before someone else proves that it can work.
Richard Fisher is a senior journalist with BBC Future. Twitter:@rifish
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