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Obama's War on Domestic Oil Production

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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.

Adding insult to injury, foreign countries from all over the world are drilling near our coasts. Canada is drilling near Maine, Russia near Alaska, and Mexico is busy developing its vast reserves. Cuba is now soliciting help to drill within its waters, a mere 60 miles away from Florida. The position of this Administration is pro-drilling, as long as the oil wells being developed are in foreign waters. President Obama laid out this policy when speaking in Brazil, “We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”

President Obama’s refusal to embrace domestic drilling from American companies has exacerbated our economic downturn. Simply allowing U.S. companies to develop natural resources currently prohibited by the federal government would have huge economic and geopolitical benefits. A million jobs would be created over the next ten years—literally. Drilling projects are enormously expensive, labor intensive projects that cost billions to undertake. These new wells would nearly double our domestic oil output adding another 4 million barrels to our daily production. And lastly, the government would receive around $127 billion in additional revenue, all according to a Wood Mackenzie study.


House Republicans have passed numerous bills that would expedite permitting in pro-drilling states like Alaska and Virginia only to watch them die in the Senate. With unemployment hovering around nine percent the American people are crying out for jobs. President Obama and his Department of the Interior should get out of the way and let American oil and natural gas producers do what they do best—employ Americans.

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