This opinion piece presents the opinions of the author.
Back in 2011, at a fundraiser in San Francisco, President Obama remarked that “We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.” Since his comments there has no doubt been a dramatic increase in domestic production of oil, natural gas and renewable energy.
Through the combined power of state-level regulatory regimes, technologies like deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and private-land ownership the United States has become one of the world's leading oil and natural gas producers.
But we should recognize that the majority of this progress has taken place despite action or inaction from the federal government, not because of it. Many worthy, large-scale energy projects on par with the achievement of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge remain unbuilt. Many areas offshore remain unexplored due to a complex web of rules and regulations that stifle progress and keep reserves of oil and gas locked beneath the waves.
Most recently the potential for dramatic increases in offshore energy production in two frontier regions has hit a stumbling block. The “worrying class” in Washington, joined by anti-development activists for whom no hydrocarbon project is ever worth supporting have lobbied the Department of the Interior and the President to put an end to all drilling activity in Arctic waters. And regulators consistently block exploration and development off the Atlantic coast.
Earlier this month nearly 60 U.S. House members called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to halt all drilling activity in the Chukchi Sea. Last week 6 Democratic Senators led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a similar letter. Furthermore, an ever-changing and uncertain regulatory regime has frustrated the efforts of companies attempting to explore for oil and natural gas in the waters off Alaska. Should a select handful of regulators and policymakers be successful in their attempt to thwart Arctic energy development, the United States will effectively cede this vital, strategic ground to other Arctic nations interested in tapping those resources.
In the Atlantic, companies have yet to be allowed to conduct seismic studies of the region in order to determine if further exploration would be prudent. The current Department of the Interior five-year plan for Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing contains no provisions for planned federal lease sales in the Atlantic or South Atlantic region. This despite report after report showing the dramatic potential for both oil and gas production and economic growth in the region should exploration be allowed.
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