With our economy continuing to falter, the discussion of leveraging our nation’s vast energy resources to create jobs is taking on renewed importance. Despite a well-established link between energy production and job creation – just observe the unemployment rates of North Dakota (3.3%) and Oklahoma (5.5%) and you’ll see it – some have sought to downplay the economic opportunities provided by the development of our abundant offshore and onshore resources, while others strangely claim that the opportunities for offshore production have actually increased.
For example, Duke University’s Bill Chameides recently wrote that “drilling activity in the [Gulf of Mexico’s] deepwaters has been steadily increasing.” Others claim that the risks of offshore drilling exceed any potential economic benefits. The anti-development ThinkProgress blog went so far as to blame the victim, suggesting those impacted by the Gulf drilling moratorium were using "violins and lies" when they told their very real stories.
While nothing will change the minds of those who want to cease all development of America’s resources – whose opinions are grounded in misunderstanding and misinformation – it’s time to discuss something that’s lacking from the debate: supportable facts.
First, those who refuse to acknowledge the dramatic slowdown in permitting in the Gulf often note that U.S. oil production is at or near historical highs, so obviously the Gulf of Mexico – one of the largest sources of domestic oil production – is doing just fine.
But not so fast. The Energy Information Administration noted in its recent Short Term Energy Outlook that production in the Gulf of Mexico will actually decline to an average of 1.47 million barrels per day in 2011, and even further to 1.39 million barrels per day in 2012. In 2010, by comparison, the Gulf of Mexico produced 1.63 million barrels per day. A decline of 240,000 barrels per day through 2012 is hardly reason to cheer – unless you have an agenda that hinges on stopping domestic production.
Moreover, a major driver of recent increases in domestic production has been onshore production, particularly oil found in shale deposits. It’s important to note that many of these production sites are on private lands. Production is increasing in spite of an Administration trying to clamp down on development, not because of it.