Posted November 18, 2011
Blogger Mark J. Perry has a post on Carpe Diem noting that oil imports as a share of U.S. consumption have fallen to their lowest point in 16 years - 46.3 percent this year (average through September), illustrated by this chart: On behalf of the administration Interior Secretary Ken Salazar claimed credit this week for oil imports falling below 50 percent. But Salazar found himself on the defensive during a Capitol Hill hearing that focused on the administration's new five-year offshore leasing plan. The plan is being criticized for not including areas off both coasts and in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington:
"We will likely hear today that U.S. oil and natural gas production is at an all time high. Yet that is true only because of the actions and policies of past administrations--both Republican and Democrat--that allowed for the leasing and production of our energy resources on public lands. We will not be able to continue to meet our country's energy and economic needs if restrictive policies are imposed that lock-up our energy resources."
Hastings' assessment echoes that of Erik Milito, API's director for upstream and industry operations:
"While oil and natural gas production is increasing today, this is largely due to the development of shale oil and natural gas on private lands in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere - and because of leasing and development on public lands and federal waters initiated many years ago."
This is an issue worth watching. Eight members of Virginia's U.S. House delegation signed a letter to Salazar, urging the administration to reconsider the omission of an Atlantic Ocean area off Virginia's coast that's believed to be ripe for exploration and development. The letter follows support for offshore drilling from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb:
"Given the broad support ... it is astonishing that you have put forward a Five Year Plan that locks up Virginia's coastal waters from future offshore energy development -- directly ignoring the resolve of the majority of Virginians on this issue. Virginia's resolve in support of offshore energy development is unchanged and it is our hope that the U.S. Department of the Interior will adhere to federal law and respect the laws, goals and policies of the Commonwealth on this matter."
You can see the full text of the letter as well as Jim Hoeft's analysis on the Bearing Drift blog.
The larger point is basic but worth repeating: Falling oil imports result from increased domestic production. This is occurring more in spite of administration policy than because of it. The fact is that with policy changes, that 46.3 percent figure could get even smaller.
With the right policies we could see 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs met domestically and from our friend and neighbor Canada by 2026. That would include access to the coastal area Virginia's elected officials want developed and others offshore and onshore. This pro-development approach also would include increased biofuels production and make full use of Canada's oil sands and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (which the administration has on hold).
Access = increased energy production, jobs, revenue for government and more control over our energy future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.