The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Administration's Energy Bias

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted December 28, 2010

If anyone doubts the current administration's negative impact on U.S. oil and natural gas development, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) has some news for you: The numbers don't lie.

The WEA recently compiled government data showing trends in oil and natural development on western public lands. The figures are revealing:

  • Since FY2005, BLM has offered 60 percent fewer parcels and 70 percent fewer acres to development.
  • Leasing revenue to the federal government fell 46 percent from $189.6 million in FY2005 to $101.6 million in FY2010.
  • In the first two years of the Obama administration, BLM issued 76 percent fewer acres than in the first two years of the Clinton administration, and 71 percent fewer acres than in the first two years of the Bush administration.

On a state-by-state basis, the numbers are equally striking. In North Dakota, where an oil boom in the Bakken Shale is creating economic opportunities and has reduced the unemployment rate to the lowest in the nation, the BLM issued only 23 leases in FY2010, a 90 percent drop from the 229 leases issued in FY2005.

Numerous studies indicate that oil and natural gas development provide tremendous benefits for the U.S. economy and jobs. Yet, at a time when millions of Americans are out of work and the federal deficit is climbing, the administration has chosen to turn its back on the economic potential of increased domestic oil and natural gas production to generate good paying jobs, provide revenues to the federal government, and increase domestic energy supplies.

Here's another example of the administration's energy bias: The administration has closed the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and natural gas development, but is moving full-speed-ahead on other forms of energy. On Dec. 16, the Interior Department issued proposed guidelines for solar development on public lands in the West, apparently with the goal of encouraging renewable-energy projects. The Washington Post reports that the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement identifies 24 "solar energy zones" in six states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says are suited "for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production." Similarly, Sec. Salazar recently announced plans to speed the installation of wind farms along the Atlantic coastline.

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has said repeatedly that the United States will need all of the energy it can get from all sources in the coming decades, and that includes solar, wind, biofuels, coal and oil and natural gas. Any effort to favor one form of energy over another is short-sighted and could be damaging to U.S. consumers and the economy.