Last Friday afternoon the “Congressional Western Caucus” – a group of Republican lawmakers from the west (or who are “western” in spirit) – issued a press release attacking the Obama administration’s energy policies, misleadingly linking the current high price of gas at the pump with federal oil and gas leasing and development policies. The clear intimation is that if we only leased and drilled more, gas prices would come down. If only these sorts of claims were true.
Fact of the matter is, there are tens of millions of acres of BLM managed lands across the west that are currently under lease, but not in development by oil and gas companies. In Utah alone, there are 4.99 million acres of BLM land in Utah under lease – but only 1.09 million acres in production (per BLM FY 09 figures).
- How much oil and gas are we talking about in Utah? According to BP’s 2009 statistical review of world energy, the U.S. has 2.4.% of the world’s proved oil reserves and 3.6% of the world’s proved natural gas reserves. According to the Energy Information Administration, Utah holds 1.2% of the nation’s proved oil and 2.7% of the nation’s proved natural gas.
- Add to the mix a 2010 analysis which shows that technically recoverable undiscovered resources below proposed BLM wilderness in Utah amounts to less than 4 weeks of natural gas and 1 week of oil (at 2010 national consumption rates). These figures are optimistic because they do not take into account the cost of recovering the resource.
- Explained another way – drilling beneath all the proposed wilderness on Utah BLM lands won’t make a difference in terms of national energy prices or the price that Americans pay at the pump for a gallon as gas.
In the Western Caucus’s press release, Rep. Bishop complained that the administration “continue[s] to perpetuate misinformation about their record on oil and gas production, one thing remains very clear-there is an abundant supply of domestic oil and gas resources that remain inaccessible and therefore unutilized.” The facts speak for themselves.
In Utah, 2010 drilling rates (975 wells started or “spudded”) in Utah were higher than any year between 2001-2005.
Also, the number of drill rigs in Utah and other western states has continued to rise. As of last Friday there were 31 rigs operating in Utah; at this time in 2010 there were 25 rigs – and in July of 2009 there were 16.
All the while, Secretary Salazar has worked to bring balance back to public lands management including reforming the oil and gas leasing process, issuing a Secretarial Order which established the BLM’s “Wild Lands” policy, and promoting renewable energy projects to wean our nation off fossil fuels.
At their core, these policies recognize that it is possible to have a strong domestic energy program, while at the same time protecting our nation’s wilderness landscapes.
The “westerners” in the Western Caucus do us all a disservice by promoting a false dichotomy of “drill everywhere” or pay high prices at pump. It’s just not that simple.