Obama Administration Still Slowing Federal Oil and Gas Production


The federal government has not been helpful in the recent run up in oil and gas production. If anything, they’ve stymied it by reducing the amount of federal land available for drilling:

Although the federal government heavily regulates the exploration and production process through laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, etc, the federal government doesn’t control land owned by states or individuals. The point being, a fair way to judge the Obama administration’s stance towards oil and natural gas is to compare federal production to state and private land production.

According to the CRS report, oil production on federal lands actually fell 6 percent between 2009 and 2013. Over the same period of time, oil production increased by an astounding 61 percent on state and private lands. The decrease in federal production is not insubstantial but requires context in the form of state and private production numbers. As a result of these massive gains, crude oil production on state and private lands has risen by 2.1 million barrels per day. That increase alone is more than Algeria, Libya, Qatar, and Norway produce– all countries with storied oil reputations – and explains why the U.S. is on track to be the world’s largest oil producer.

This is an enormous difference. Imagine where we’d be if the federal government was interested in producing as much oil as the federal lands are able to produce. While private lands have been lucky enough to have oil fields that have become highly productive in recent years, such as North Dakota and Texas, there is also government land which holds significant potential for oil and gas drilling:

As North Dakota continues this unprecedented economic boom, as oil and revenues spurt from thousands of new wells on private and state lands that seemingly spring up overnight, Stewart looks across the vast federal acreage of Utah and sees the “what ifs” and “if onlys.”

“One of my greatest frustrations is that I advise the governor on resources we don’t control, which puts me in a strange position,” Stewart said. “We can’t pull a lever, pull back the curtain, make a phone call or do anything to make it happen. We are not in the driver’s seat.”

In Utah, the man who controls the most land in the state does not sit in the governor’s chair at the Utah state Capitol or sleep in the Governor’s Mansion.

The man technically in charge of the most acreage in Utah has an office on 200 South, next to The Gateway, on the fifth floor in offices of the Bureau of Land Management — the agency’s Utah state director, Juan Palma.

“There is a constant tug of war going on out there because the federal government has so much say about what goes on within the borders of Utah,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. “We wish we had more flexibility and say with what is happening in our own backyards.”

Unfortunately, they can’t do much with this land because the drilling decisions are out of their control. And yet despite this stonewalling by the federal government, President Obama has repeatedly tried to take credit for the increases in oil and gas drilling:

Touting natural gas during this year’s State of the Union, President Obama said, “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy.” Speaking at Georgetown University, the president again reaffirmed his supposed support for natural gas, “And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else.  So we’re producing energy.  And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas.”

Unfortunately, these words amount to nothing more than lip service. Natural gas production on federal lands decreased by an astounding 28 percent from 2009 to 2013 while natural gas production on non-federal lands increased by 33 percent from 2009 to 2013. Actions speak louder than words.

Four Pinocchio’s, Mr. President.


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