Federal Land Energy Obstruction: The Real Obama
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By Robert L. Bradley Jr.
Innovative drilling techniques have transformed the United States into
the world's top producer of petroleum and natural gas. Recent analysis
suggests America is in the midst of the second biggest oil boom in
Yet, there are regions in the United States where energy production has
unjustifiably dropped in recent years. Their common denominator is
ownership by the federal government and operation by the Obama
Administration's Department of Interior.
According to a new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS),
while oil and gas development on private and state lands has surged,
production on federal lands has fallen. The dichotomy can only be
explained by blatant, pernicious Obama administration policies.
According to the CRS, between fiscal years 2009 and 2013 oil production
on private and state lands jumped 61 percent (an average increase of 2.1
million barrels per day), while federal-land output fell 6 percent. With
natural gas production in the same five-year span, production rose by
one-third on private and state lands, but decreased 28 percent on federal
The same technology and many of the same companies are at work on federal
lands as on private and state lands. The difference resides in the back
rooms of Washington, D.C. bureaucracy.
Since 2009, the average time it takes to secure a drilling permit for
federal lands has risen by 18 percent compared to the previous five
fiscal years. As recently as 2011, it took an astonishing 307 days to get
the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) go-ahead for just a single oil or
gas well. By comparison, some states grant permits in as few as 10
Leasing federal lands has also become more difficult. The BLM has issued
50 percent fewer leases under the current administration than it did
during President Clinton's tenure.
Why isn't the Administration making it easier for the citizens to reap
the benefits of our country's most valuable resources? The positive
effects of growing domestic energy production is indisputable. In 2012
alone, the newly vibrant oil and gas sectors supported 2.1 million jobs
and added the equivalent of $1,200 to the average household income.
A new study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, meanwhile, finds that, over
the last three years, the energy boom has boosted manufacturing
employment in metropolitan areas by an annual average of 1.7 percent. If
Obama complains that the economy is leaving the middle class behind, he
needs to have a talk with the mirror.
Replacing imports with backyard supply is supposed to be a goal of
federal energy policy. Indeed, as Obama said in this year's State of the
Union address, "America is closer to energy independence than we've been
in decades." Yet his multi-front war on fossil fuels, part of his
climate-change policy, puts him at odds with the fruits of the hydraulic
fracturing/horizontal drilling oil and gas production boom.
By discouraging energy exploration on federal lands, the administration
is wasting an unprecedented opportunity to grow the nation's economy and
create jobs. According to an analysis from my own organization, the
Institute for Energy Research, opening up more federal lands for drilling
would lead to an annual increase in gross domestic product of $127
billion for the next seven years.
The potential for energy projects to grow jobs and wages is already on
display in places where exploration has been allowed to move forward. In
2013, earnings growth in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas outpaced the
national average for the fourth year in a row thanks mostly to oil and
gas development projects.
If the government created more boom-towns by opening up federal lands to
drilling, it could add 552,000 jobs to the economy annually over the next
seven years. Wages, meanwhile, would grow by $32 billion a year.
In the long-term, expanding oil and gas exploration on federal lands
would also help address the growing national debt, which currently
exceeds $17 trillion. Such projects would increase federal tax revenues
alone by $2.7 trillion during the next 37 years.
It's the president's obligation to use government land in ways that
benefit taxpayers and strengthen our nation. By effectively keeping
federal land inhospitable to oil and gas development, Obama is failing in
this important duty.
Robert L. Bradley Jr. is CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy
Research and the author of seven books on energy history and public