The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Planning, Leadership Needed to Harness U.S. Offshore Energy

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 27, 2016

My last experience with a federal public commenting event was a few years ago when EPA sought inputs on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). I felt a little sorry for EPA staff assigned to sit at the front of the room and listen as hundreds of folks took turns getting things off their chests about the RFS. It went on for hours and hours.

To my relief, this week's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public meeting in Washington, D.C. – collecting comments on its proposed five-year oil and natural gas offshore leasing program – was nothing like that.

BOEM’s DC meeting that followed others this month in New Orleans, Houston and a number of localities in Alaska, was an information smorgasbord. They had a video overview of the methodology in developing the leasing program that will guide offshore energy development from 2017 to 2022. They also had a number of tables with printed handouts, where BOEM staffers were available to talk about topics ranging from protected species to the human environment to acoustics in the water.

smallerI asked a staffer if it was possible that someone knowing little to nothing about offshore energy and leasing could wander into BOEM’s meeting, watch the video, absorb the information handouts, talk to BOEM representatives and then submit an informed comment on the leasing proposal. “Yes,” he said. Neat.

BOEM had a number of laptops set up to receive electronic comments. I submitted mine the old-fashioned way, writing them out longhand on a form. I labored to print legibly.

Certainly, BOEM has been meticulous in developing its proposed leasing program. The final version that will come out early next year will say a lot about U.S. energy leadership and vision and the future of American energy. That’s how critically important our offshore reserves are. API’s Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations, talked about what’s at stake with the offshore leasing program during a conference call with reporters:

“Increases in U.S. production have dramatically increased our resistance to energy shocks, but our long-term energy security can only be ensured with a lasting commitment to expanding offshore oil and natural gas development to new areas.”

Offshore development is about opportunity, and you can see from a BOEM map below that, while a number of areas are included in the leasing program proposal, there are many more that are excluded. One of the biggest exclusions is the Mid-Atlantic offshore, which was part of an earlier draft of the program but then was dropped.

BOEM_map

The Atlantic was excluded despite strong statewide support in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for domestic oil and natural gas production, including offshore. Overall, 87 percent of offshore acreage under federal control remains off limits to energy development. Production in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to increase to record highs in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, yet America’s future energy security depends on increasing access to reserves – as opposed to taking reserves off the table. Milito:

“These recent statewide polls show that American voters get it: Energy security depends on our ability to produce domestic oil and natural gas. The administration should not exclude additional areas or reduce the number of proposed lease sales. Too many promising areas, like the Atlantic, are already excluded, taking off the table hundreds of thousands of potential jobs and tens of billions of dollars in government revenue that more forward-looking policy would support.”

The five-year leasing program is key to future energy development because of the long lead times needed to explore and develop energy offshore. Areas left out of this next five-year program could be delayed from producing energy for more than a decade. Milito said in the Arctic the United States has large oil and natural gas reserves that could contribute to meeting future U.S. and global energy needs. The technology exists to safely develop this energy. Others, like Russia, are moving ahead with Arctic energy development, he said.

Environmentally, the U.S. energy revolution – surging domestic oil and gas production – has been accompanied by reductions in U.S. carbon emissions, reductions that lead the world. “Increased energy production and achieving climate goals are not mutually exclusive,” Milito said.

The oil and natural gas industry delivers reliable, affordable energy every day for Americans and the American economy. It is playing a big part in making the U.S. more energy secure, strengthening our country’s standing in the world. Milito:

“Safe and responsible offshore energy development is occurring and generating important energy and economic benefits for the country. The Obama administration should carefully consider America’s long-term energy needs because these decisions will impact the availability of affordable energy for American consumers and the country’s national security for decades to come.”

You can comment on BOEM’s plan through May 2. Click here for information and links to BOEM’s portal to say your piece.


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.