Opinion: Column Overlooks Where 'Energy Boom' Is Occurring
Michael Levi's opinion piece, The American Energy Boom has a number of good points about U.S. energy production, but unfortunately contains some missteps as well. For example, Levi completely misapprehends the impact of President Obama on oil and natural gas production. But Levi gets the most important facts correct—we have a bright energy future.
Levi's largest mistake in his recent op-ed is crediting President Obama for the increase in oil and natural gas production in the United States. As Levi writes, "Obama has presided over an extraordinary boom in oil and gas production. That fact alone suggests he isn't out to wreck the industry."
Wrong. The growth in oil and natural gas production is occurring in spite of President Obama, not because of him.
Despite the fact that over two trillion barrels of oil resources lie on federal lands, the vast majority of increases in oil and natural gas production are occurring on private and state lands, not the federal lands and federal offshore areas that the federal government controls.
From 2007 to 2011, 96 percent of the increase in oil production occurred on private and state lands. More recently, from 2010 to 2011, oil and natural gas production increased on private and state lands, but decreased on federal lands.
The federal government controls a vast amount of land onshore and offshore, but per acre oil and natural gas production on federal lands greatly lags production on private and state lands. In fact, 5.5 times more oil is produce on private and state lands than on federal lands.
One of the most important developments in energy production in the United States is the unlocking of shale plays. Technology played an important part of this revolution, but regulation and the location of these shale plays also important factors. The vast majority of shale plays, such as the Marcellus, Haynesville, Eagle Ford, and the Bakken are primarily on private and state lands. This is not a coincidence that there has been large production increase on these non-federal lands. The regulatory environment on these lands is much more conducive to energy development than development on federal lands. There are shale resources on federal lands, but the federal government is becoming more and more hostile to energy development.
The Obama administration's track record shows how hostile the administration is to energy production. On onshore areas, the Obama administration has issued 36 percent few leases than the Bush administration and the Bush administration issued fewer leases than the Clinton administration. When President Obama took office, nearly all of the outer continental shelf was available for leasing. But the Obama administration has effectively reverted to the situation pre-offshore moratorium and has not held lease sales in new areas and does not plan to through 2017.
The reality is that the oil and natural gas boom is growing and will only continue to grow. The future of energy production in the United States is bright because of private lands and state regulation. If all of the shale plays were found on federal lands, it is likely that U.S. oil and natural gas production would continue to decrease.
Oil and natural gas jobs account for more than 1/5th of all net private jobs since 2003. American's energy and job prospects could be much greater if the federal government allowed more access to the vast energy resources on federal lands, but until then, private and state lands will continue to produce more and more energy powering the economy forward.
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