Christopher Prandoni

This week the Department of Interior (DOI) sold its first oil lease in the Gulf of Mexico in over a year. Withholding drilling permits and cancelling leases, the Obama Administration has made what was once routine nearly impossible.

Upon assuming office, President Obama cancelled 31 oil and gas lease sales, delaying thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity. Not letting any crisis go to waste, the Department of Interior imposed a six month drilling moratorium on the Gulf following the Macondo disaster.

The Obama Administration’s recent offshore drilling plan codifies the White House’s anti-energy, anti-jobs position. The Obama 2012-2017 draft drilling plan closes a majority of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to new energy production. In fact, less than 3 percent of America’s OCS will be available for development.

While the moratorium technically ended, only a handful of permits have been issued earning this era the nomenclature, “permatorium.” Compared to pre-moratorium levels, almost twice as many exploration and development plans are stuck at DOI. Approval of plans has decreased by 86 percent explaining why the median number of days for approving an exploration plan has increased from 36 to 131 days. Most telling, revenue from offshore lease sales dropped from $9.5 billion in 2008 to $36 million in 2011.

DOI Secretary Ken Salazar told Politico that “total U.S. crude oil production was higher in 2010 than in any year since 2003. The Obama administration continues to take meaningful steps to grow America’s domestic energy economy and secure our energy future.” While technically accurate, the increase in total U.S. production can be completely attributed to increased production on state and private lands, like development of North Dakota’s Bakken formation.

Production on federal lands, territory under Salazar’s purview, has been decreasing since Obama was sworn in. The fact that America’s oil output has increased is a testament to oil and natural gas companies revolutionary extracting techniques—like hydraulic fracturing—and has nothing to do with the federal government.

Christopher Prandoni

Christopher Prandoni serves as a Federal Affairs Manager of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).