The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The New Congress and Energy Policy

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 5, 2011

As the 112th Congress convenes today, the new majority in the House of Representatives is putting its priorities in order and considering actions that could alter the nation's energy policies.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says Republicans are likely to hold hearing on the offshore drilling ban. "We've got problems ahead of us that we've got to be prepared for," he told The Wall Street Journal yesterday.

Similarly, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the new chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, is concerned about the administration's actions to discourage both onshore and offshore development of oil and natural gas. As reported by Politico, Rep. Hastings believes the Department of the Interior (DOI) should support an energy plan that "maximizes U.S. energy production from coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear plants and - when not supported by new mandates or subsidies - renewable sources such as wind and the sun."

As API President and CEO Jack Gerard told reporters yesterday, U.S. consumers will continue to rely on oil and natural gas for about 50 percent of their energy needs in the next two decades. Therefore, it is critically important for the United States to produce more of its own oil and natural gas to enhance energy supplies, improve the economy, create jobs, and generate government revenues to defray the budget deficit.

"Energy growth is economic growth. Energy security is economic security," Jack said in his State of American Energy speech, "And when we invest in [domestic] energy, we invest in America."

Yet, despite persistently high unemployment rates, the administration has pushed policies that lead to fewer U.S. energy investments. It has prohibited drilling in onshore areas that had been leased to energy companies; it has been slow to issue permits to drillers at both deepwater and shallow-water Gulf of Mexico leased locations; it has delayed oil and natural gas leasing in the eastern Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific for at least seven years; and it's very possible--in fact, it's likely--that in 2011 the United States won't hold an offshore lease sale for the first time since 1958.

Rep. Hastings told Politico that it would be "good" to roll back administration policies that have discouraged the development of America's own energy resources. "We're going to have vigorous oversight," he said.

Energy isn't likely to be the first item on the new Congress's agenda, but it will be addressed. API is hopeful that the 112th Congress will encourage the development of U.S. oil and natural gas.