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Unleashing American Energy

June 25, 2012
Weekly Columns

President Obama's decision to unilaterally kill the Keystone pipeline project is not the only government action to stifle energy production and job creation.  Every day, federal policies create obstacles to the energy independence America needs to achieve for both our national security and economic recovery.

Last week, House Republicans passed the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act to remove bureaucratic barriers to American energy production.  The legislation is a combination of seven different bills that target unreasonable government regulations that impact energy exploration on federal lands, leasing and permit approval for drilling, and fuel prices.

The Obama administration claims that energy production has increased on their watch, but this assertion is highly misleading.  Production has only increased on private lands over which the federal government has limited control.  While production is up 14 percent on private land, production has actually decreased by 11 percent on federally owned land during President Obama's tenure.  In 2010, the Obama administration issued the lowest number of onshore leases recorded since 1984.

Unlocking the energy potential of public land could dramatically reduce America's reliance on foreign energy and create thousands of jobs. If production were opened up on federally owned land, the combination of public and private land production could create an estimated 600,000 direct jobs and 3 million jobs overall.  Untapped energy resources on federal land could even exceed the Saudi Arabian reserves. 

The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act contains provisions to open up more federal lands for drilling.  Although no leasing would be allowed on federal lands managed under the National Park Service or National Wilderness Preservation System, safe exploration on other federal lands is essential for breaking our dependence on foreign oil.  The bill would ensure that the government allow leasing on at least 25 percent of the federal lands identified as promising.  It would increase certainty in the leasing process by setting firm approval timelines and preventing the government from revoking leases that have already been sold. 

The legislation also prevents the abuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is meant to be tapped only in times of crisis -- not as a politically expedient crutch or as a substitute for sound energy policy.  Under the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, the president would be required to lease more federal lands for exploration and production any time oil is withdrawn from the Reserve.

Even after leases are approved, the government can still hinder production by denying or delaying permits for development.  This bill streamlines the approval process by establishing a 30-day timeline for the Interior Secretary to act on drilling permits. 

Other reforms include policies to expand production in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which was specifically established as a petroleum reserve in 1923 and is estimated to contain 2.7 billion barrels of oil and 114.36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that have not been fully developed due to government red tape.  The legislation also establishes a process to analyze the impact of various EPA regulations on the price of gas and diesel to prevent overregulation from driving up energy prices for American families and businesses.

Oklahomans know firsthand the relationship between a thriving energy industry and a stable economy.  Our strong energy production is one of the reasons our unemployment rate is just 4.8 percent, compared to the 8 percent national jobless rate.  North Dakota's energy boom has led to just 3 percent unemployment in that state. 

We have the natural resources to break our dependence on foreign energy and create jobs in the process.  All we lack is an energy policy that unleashes those resources.  The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act is just such a policy, and it deserves fair consideration by President Obama and Senate Democrats.