Missed Opportunity_Feature 06-2013

A funny idea of what “back in business” means

We all know that production of oil and natural gas has soared in the United States over the last few years. But there’s one place where production actually has dropped: on federal lands.

That comes from the federal government’s own Energy Information Administration. In a new report, EIA reveals that oil and gas production from federal lands – including coastal waters – reached a ten-year low in 2012.

Last year, sales of crude oil from federal lands fell more than 5 percent compared to the year before. “In contrast,” EIA notes, “total U.S. crude oil production (from public and private lands) increased by 15 percent.”

Perhaps more ominously, sales of oil produced from federal properties have fallen 18 percent from the 2010 level.

The drop-off is even more significant offshore, where the majority of U.S. production from federal lands occurs. Sales of oil produced from federal waters plummeted 23 percent from a peak of 615 million barrels in 2010.

A major contributor, of course, are the actions taken by the current administration in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil spill to slow the pace of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s hard to see those numbers improving any time soon. The federal government’s new 2012-2017 offshore leasing plan keeps the vast majority of U.S. offshore areas off-limits for energy development, including the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, nearly all of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and most Alaskan waters.

The administration’s plan replaces a previous proposal that would have opened up parts of the Atlantic Coast for responsible energy development, and offered the possibility that the Eastern Gulf of Mexico would be opened as well.

Under the administration’s updated plan, more than 85 percent of U.S. offshore areas remain off-limits. No other country prohibits its own economic development like this.

Last summer then- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar declared, “Two years removed from the spill, the Gulf of Mexico is back in business.”

The government’s own data show otherwise.

America’s federal lands are owned by the American people.  And the U.S. energy industry has proven that with our rapidly advancing technologies we can safely and responsibly produce energy almost anywhere.

After years of waiting, it is time to give us the opportunity to invest, create jobs, and generate revenue from our shared resources.