The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Glad You Mentioned It, Mr. President

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 22, 2011

Kudos to a Kansas City television anchor who got about eight minutes with the president this week and used one of her four questions to ask him about energy. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is the answer she got contained quite a bit of misinformation. Let us count the ways ...

P: "The fact of the matter is, we use 25 percent of the world's oil, and we only have 3 percent of the world's reserves."

As long as we're talking facts, the fact of the matter is usage has nothing to do with reserves. The United States has at least 116 billion barrels of oil that's off limits by federal policy, technically classified as undiscovered. And the fact of the matter is the 3 percent figure refers only to proved reserves and doesn't include unconventional sources such as shale oil. More detail here.

P: "We're producing more oil in this country than we ever have."

The fact of the matter is that briefly in 1970 production was almost twice as high as it is now and in many years since then has been substantially higher than current levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The decline reflects what's happened in markets, but production also has been heavily influenced by administration policies limiting access.

P: "But even with all that production, we can't fulfill all our needs."

Oh, but we can come close, like 76 percent close. The right policies - accessing those 116 billion barrels locked up by Washington and restoring the pace of drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico to pre-2010 levels - gets us to 76 percent of our liquid fuel needs by 2030. And approving the Keystone XL pipeline, to bring upwards of 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada's oil sands region, and other measures get us to 92 percent of our liquid fuel needs being supplied by the U.S. and Canada by 2030.

P: "That's why it's so important for us to look at alternative approaches to energy."

On it! America's oil and natural gas industry invested $58.4 billion in low-carbon technologies from 2000 to 2008, which is more than all other private investment combined and more than the government's investment. And according to methodology from the Center for American Progress, the oil and gas industry created about 1 million jobs related to green technology just from those low-carbon investments. Our industry is looking hard at energy alternatives - and creating jobs there as well. The question is why is the administration looking to raise taxes on the leading investors in energy alternatives?

P: The administration is "making sure we're developing gas which we have a lot of in the United States and doing it in an environmentally sound way."

On that, too! The oil and natural gas industry is leading the way in the crafting of field-tested, regularly reviewed best practices to guide companies that are developing this game-changing American resource. It has worked to strengthen FracFocus, an online registry where companies disclose the makeup of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing. It works closely with STRONGER, a non-profit organization that helps states develop environmental regulations associated with oil and gas production. Industry supports reasonable, effective state and local regulation. The caution is for the federal government to resist the urge to impose a one-size-fits-all regulatory regime that would end up hindering responsible development.

P: "We have to start shifting how we think about energy in this country."

The fact is that shift already is under way just about everywhere except in Washington. Gallup reported in March six in 10 Americans favored increasing offshore oil and gas development. A CNN poll in April put support at 69 percent. The public is way out in front on this one because it recognizes the need for energy to run the economy and also for the jobs that could be created if America's energy companies are allowed access to available resources.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.