2013-02-14

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stated:

“Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings claimed in a response, yesterday, that Obama administration-created red tape has slowed down energy production.

The truth is that the oil and gas industry already has plenty of land and opportunities to drill. Oil and gas companies are sitting on millions of leased acres of public land that they’re using for production or exploration, and thousands of idle drilling permits. Meanwhile, the United States has seen oil production skyrocket on federal lands. Technology, geology and price determine where and how much industry drills, not red tape.

Instead of worrying about multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies, the Obama Administration needs to adopt a more aggressive policy when it comes to conserving public land. During President Obama’s first term, his administration permanently protected far fewer acres than his immediate four predecessors. The President and Congress need to adopt a more balanced approach to public land use, putting as much effort into protecting lands that are crucial to the nation’s tourism and outdoor recreation industries as they do expanding the oil and gas industries’ already-swollen public land holdings.

A few things Americans need to know about oil and gas production on public lands:

  • Industry is responsible for the majority of permitting delays. Last year, BLM announced it is moving to an online permitting system that will hopefully help companies cut down the time it takes them to properly file permit applications.

permit_timingBLM Table of Average Application for Permit to Drill (APD) Approval Timeframes:  FY2005 – FY2012

  • Industry is submitting far fewer permits to drill on public lands because of the shift from public lands’ natural gas resources to private lands’ shale oil deposits, and the federal government can’t approve a permit unless industry submits an application for it. More importantly, the federal government consistently approves drilling permits faster than industry can drill new oil and gas wells. The only thing holding back industry is industry.

wells_v_permitsBLM Summary of Onshore Oil and Gas Statistics

  • Industry does not use the drilling permits that have already been issued for oil and gas development. In fact, there are nearly 7,000 unused drilling permits that industry could develop on federal public lands.

unused_permitsBLM Approve Permits – Not Drilled table

  • According to the Department of Interior’s Oil and Gas Lease Utilization, Onshore and Offshore report, issued May 2012, “As of March 31, 2012, approximately 56 percent (20.8 million acres) of total onshore acres under lease on public lands in the Lower 48 States were conducting neither production nor exploration activities”

leased_productionDOI Oil and Gas Lease Utilization Report

  • The latest oil boom in the lower 48 states is due largely to an unconventional resource known as “shale oil,” (oil trapped within shale rock). The vast majority of both “shale oil” and “shale gas” (natural gas trapped within shale rock) is found under private and not public lands. The location of these resources, not safeguards for air and water, explain the shift in drilling from public to private lands.

shale_locationAdam Sieminski, U.S. House, Subcommittee on Energy and Power Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2 August 2012