10.18.2012 1

Getting to the bottom of America’s oily debate

By Rebekah Rast — In the second presidential debate, President Obama and Gov. Romney had a difference of opinion on the facts about America’s energy development.

President Obama: “So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”

Gov. Romney: “… the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters.”

So who is right about what? What is the truth about America’s energy production?

Well, they’re both right.  President Obama is correct when he makes a blanket comment such as America’s oil production is up. And Romney is correct also when he says that oil production is up on private lands but down on federal lands.

In April, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) further expounded this fact in a Washington Times article:

“… the federal government owns and completely controls almost 2.5 billion acres of land and offshore zones, including our Outer Continental Shelf, an area that is actually larger than the entire land mass of the United States. What’s been happening with oil production there? The government’s own director of the Bureau of Land Management, Bob Abbey, testified to Congress on this very point recently: Oil production is actually down 14 percent on federal property and down 17 percent offshore from a year ago.”

Need further proof? The Energy Information Agency (EIA) chart reflecting crude oil and lease production from federal and Indian lands shows a definite drop in production on offshore federal lands between 2010 and 2011.

Though that same figure did increase in 2009 and 2010, it must be remembered that those increases are due to permit and leasing decisions by Obama’s predecessor — not because of any action taken during this current Administration.

As far as current offshore oil production, Obama has greatly limited permits to the Gulf since the BP oil spill in 2010.  In fact, permitting in the Gulf of Mexico is still more than 40 percent below levels prior to the oil spill.  Given that the majority of oil production on federal lands—around 80 percent—is located in offshore waters, it is little wonder that production on these lands is dropping.

Though when Obama says oil production is up, he is correct. Looking at the big picture of U.S. oil production, the numbers are up.  And again, Gov. Romney is correct when he said the numbers are only up on private land — where the federal government doesn’t have near as much control.

Institute of Energy Research (IER) compares oil production on federal lands to private lands:

“Comparing the loss in federal oil production to production in the oil producing states, we find the decrease expected in oil production from the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico between fiscal years 2010 and 2012 of 112 million barrels is about equal to the oil produced in the state of North Dakota in 2010 (113 million barrels) and it is 50 percent higher than the oil produced in the state of Oklahoma in 2011 (74 million barrels).”

The report further explains the increase in production on private lands and why businesses prefer to explore oil opportunities on these and state lands:

According to CRS [Congressional Research Service], 96 percent of the increase in oil production between fiscal years 2007 and 2012 came from private and state lands and production there increased 11 percent in fiscal year 2011 from fiscal year 2010 levels. Oil producers prefer to explore for oil and drill on private and state lands because there is a lot less red tape involved and much shorter approval times, which means it is less costly to invest and drill for oil on state and private lands than on federal lands.”

North Dakota alone has become the nation’s No. 2 oil producing state and next year will start construction on the first new oil refinery built within the U.S. in 30 years.

It takes roughly a week to less than a month in states like North Dakota, Ohio and Colorado to be approved for an oil drilling permit.  On the other hand, in 2012, it can take close to a year for that permit to be approved for use on federal lands—a time increase of 100 percent since 2005, according to IER.

It is clear President Obama has not increased oil production and instead seems to have stifled its growth on federal lands.

But maybe the most convincing argument as to why President Obama isn’t the oil man he claims to be—his record, his policies and his appeasement to the radical environmentalist agenda.  He loves his windmills, solar panels and electric cars—despite the heavy toll these unsustainable, unaffordable and unrealistic energy sources have had on the American taxpayers.

With gas prices on the rise in states like California and throughout the country, it is clear any increase in oil exploration is in spite of Obama’s policies, and that this Administration would rather invest in highly speculative “green” energies instead.   Unless, of course, he is engaging in a debate where his answers determine his future employment—at that point, Obama tries to morph into America’s oilman.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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