Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.
Currently, only 2.2 percent of federal offshore lands are leased for oil and natural gas production.Even though energy production creates real jobs that aren't dependent on taxpayer subsidies, it is unlikely that more than 2.2 percent of federal offshore lands will be leased anytime soon, especially with the new 5-year offshore drilling plan announced by the Obama administration last week.
Instead of expanding access to new areas, the new plan restricts drilling access almost exclusively to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, the announcement drew the ire of those who support domestic energy production; it even brought jeers from Virginia's Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb.
Both Senators Warner and Webb issued statements urging the administration to allow access to these taxpayer-owned resources. "This is disappointing, because the safe, responsible development of offshore energy resources has broad support from Virginians and among the bipartisan elected leadership of the state,'' Warner said.
Webb's comments mirrored Warner's. "Oil and gas exploration within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf—if coupled with an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments—would boost domestic energy production, while benefiting the commonwealth's economy,'' Webb said.
Warner and Webb are correct about the benefits of energy development. North Dakota has had impressive job and economic growth because of oil development in its Bakken shale. Now unemployment in North Dakota is a paltry 3.5 percent while the U.S. unemployment rate is stubbornly stuck at 9 percent.
Offshore energy development in the Atlantic, Pacific, and offshore Alaska could also generate significant economic growth.
Instead of allowing access to these vital taxpayer-owned energy resources, however, the Obama administration is making it harder to access the resources. As a result of the Obama administration, coupled with past administrations' policies, oil and natural gas production on federal lands has fallen sharply over the past decade. According to the Energy Information Administration, oil production on federal lands has fallen by 44 percent while natural gas production on federal lands has fallen by 41 percent.
Over the past decade, total oil and natural gas production in the United States has actually increased. This increase is in spite of federal policies, not because of them. In North Dakota, where oil production is occurring almost exclusively on private land, oil production has increased nearly 250 percent over the last decade.