Obama Administration Should Abide By 'All of the Above' Approach to Energy

This opinion piece presents the opinions of the author.
It does not necessarily reflect the views of Rigzone.

The administration released in late January its draft five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing, the game plan for what areas will be open for exploration and how they will be managed. By no small coincidence, opponents of offshore exploration are now beating the drum to close off areas to oil and gas and put the emphasis entirely on wind power.

As a country, we cannot take an either/or approach to our energy needs by picking just one source, whether it is wind or hydrocarbons. That is why the Administration’s stated goals of an “all of the above” energy strategy is the right path to energy independence.

As the draft five-year plan includes opening up parts of the East Coast to oil and gas exploration, there is one major stumbling block – we don’t know what is out there. We think the potential is enormous, but the information we have to work with is more than 30 years old, based on the limitations of the technology of the time. Those early seismic and other geophysical surveys showed fairly substantial reserves, but experts believe they don’t tell the true story. A recent analysis of the geology of the area projects it may produce the equivalent of 4.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day within 20 years.

Geological and geophysical surveys (G&G), answers those questions. It is the way we determine whether there are significant pockets of oil and gas off America’s Atlantic shores, and is the safest, most environmentally sound way to tap into those resources. New technology that wasn’t invented when the last surveys were performed, will give us accurate data that will allow the country to decide what specific locations should be opened for drilling.

Again, this is where the Administration needs to truly commit to an “all of the above” energy policy. The process it has laid out to perform those seismic surveys will make it very difficult to perform the right types of surveys on an acceptable timeline.  

First, the process itself is so laden with red tape and delay that acquiring a permit to perform a survey may take up to a year-and-a-half. It could become the longest part of the entire oil and gas production process. The government gave the go ahead to conduct geophysical surveys last July. Now it is time to approve the permits and get to work.

Finally, the Administration has placed excessive restrictions on how the surveys are to be performed. Regulators say these restrictions are designed to protect marine life, but they ignore the industry’s more than 40 years’ experience in working in concert with the environment and instead embrace unfounded speculation.

The plan to open up new areas of our offshore world to oil and gas exploration is very welcomed news and the Administration is to be applauded for taking that step. The decision to pursue oil and gas, while at the same time, encouraging wind and other alternative sources is wise. However, that strategy needs to include the resources and the commitment to provide us all with the best information and the best science to actually put an “all of the above” policy into practice.

Ken Wells is President of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors.  


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