The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Doublespeak: The Un-Lifting of the Moratorium

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted October 19, 2010

If you read the pronouncements coming from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) these days, expect to be a little befuddled. Consider, for example, agency Director Michael Bromwich's comments in an Op-Ed on CNN's website.

Bromwich states that the oil and natural gas industry is wrong to say that his agency is taking too long to review and approve drilling permits. Then a few sentences later, he adds that his agency doesn't have the "personnel and resources" to enforce its new drilling rules and regulations, and he admits there will be a "slower pace of drilling permit approvals."

His comments have led newspapers and bloggers to take BOEM to task for the un-lifting of the moratorium:

  • The Washington Times calls Bromwich's comments "doublespeak," and "empty campaign-season rhetoric because oil companies still can't resume drilling....President Obama's drilling ban ends the day the first drill bit hits mud at the sea bottom."
  • Byron King at Outstanding Investments and calls the lifting of the moratorium "smoke and mirrors...instead of a moratorium, we now have a 'permit-orium' on deepwater drilling. The bottom line is that 'lifting' the moratorium results in no practical change to the outlook for domestic deepwater drilling, and probably not much for shallow-water drilling, either."
  • James Shott at Observations calls the moratorium "completely unwarranted" and discusses the cost of administration's drilling policies. "This over-reaction severely damaged the economy of Gulf States, as shown by two Louisiana State University professors that estimates the economic losses from the ban at $2.7 billion."
  • The Queen in Through the Looking Glass says, "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" (Apologies to the late author Lewis Carroll, the master of doublespeak.)

BOEM's Bromwich has stated that he doesn't know when companies will be able to resume drilling. "It will clearly not be tomorrow, and it will not be next week," he says. "My sense is we will have permits approved by the end of the year, but how much before the end of the year I can't say, and how many before the end of the year I can't say."

His comments aren't providing much comfort to those who carefully monitor domestic oil production. Last week the U.S. Energy Information Administration left unchanged its projections for U.S. oil production, saying that 31,000 fewer barrels per day would be produced late this year and about 82,000 fewer barrels per day would be produced in 2011 due to the moratorium.