On Thursday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) schooled oil company executives over their demand for greater access to federal lands for drilling — using some stark props as visual aids.
"How many acres of public land are already leased by fossil fuel companies and not even used yet?" asked Porter, standing in front of a car parked in a driveway. "Just available for drilling whenever you decide?"
"Congresswoman," said one of the oil executives in the hearing. "Again, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding as to how this process works and the time and resources—"
"Reclaiming my time," cut in Porter. "Reclaiming my time, the answer is 13.9 million acres. To visualize how much land that is, if each grain of rice were one acre, that would be 479 pounds of rice."
She then flipped open the trunk of the car to reveal several bags containing a combined 479 pounds of rice.
"The American Petroleum Institute even opposed pausing more leasing on our lands and even sued to stop it," she continued. "Because apparently, this acreage wasn't enough. Mr. Worth, you serve on the American Petroleum Institute's executive committee. Do you support a pause on new oil and gas leases on federal land?"
"Congresswoman, access to a resource in this country is essential to ensure the energy security of our country, and—" the executive began.
"Mr. Waller, do you support a pause?" asked Porter, turning to another executive.
"The administration — it's our hope that the pause ends soon," said the executive. "We think it's important to go forward—"
"I reclaim my time, thank you for your answer, the answer there is no," said Porter.
She then went around asking all of the executives the same question, and all of them responded they did not.
"You already have 13.9 million acres!" said Porter, holding up one of the bags of rice. "This is equivalent to Maryland and New Jersey combined. How much more do you need? How much more acreage? You have two of our 50 states at a price that makes the Louisiana Purchase look like a ripoff, and you're not even using it. What more do you need? Iowa? Colorado? Virginia? Our public land belongs to the American people, not to Big Oil. When you lobby and you sue so that you can take more of our public land, you're saying too much is never enough. The American people are tired of this charade."