President Obama has tried to deflect criticism of his administration as being hostile to fossil fuels by pointing out that overall domestic oil production in the United States has increased during his term in office. That’s actually true, but production in areas the federal government controls (on federal lands and off-shore) production is down under Obama.
Yesterday the Obama administration tried to deflect that criticism too by suggesting that the oil industry hasn’t been taking advantage of the leases they have:
The White House pushed back against the oil and gas industry’s claims that the Obama administration is blocking domestic energy development, releasing a new analysis showing that 46 million acres of federal lands and waters leased for drilling are sitting idle.
“We continue to make millions of acres … available for safe and responsible domestic energy production on public lands and in federal waters,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a statement. “We also want companies to develop the tens of millions of acres they’ve already leased but have left sitting idle.”
The problem? The White House is counting as “idle” leases the federal government hasn’t approved yet.
“If you look at their characterization of idle leases, normally they include in that leases where we’re trying to get permits, we’re trying to get permission to develop this land,” said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard earlier this week. “For example, there was a permit approved just last week in Utah, which Secretary Salazar took great credit for. We’ve been waiting for four and a half years for that approval. In the administration’s previous analysis they would have concluded that was an idle lease, while we’re waiting for Uncle Sam to give us permission to produce these resources, to identify resources on public lands.”
What’s more, just because the federal government issues a lease doesn’t mean there will be any oil found there. Or, perhaps more accurately, any oil found in quantities sufficient to make production possible. As the chart below from Energy Tomorrow shows, for every successful oil discovery there are a lot of failures.
Obama wants to point to the failures and claim them as evidence that the oil industry isn’t taking advantage of the leases. That’s simply not the case.