Editorial: U.S. on way to secure energy future

Ken Salazar

Last edited 09/05/2019


Last week, I announced the next steps in the Obama administration's strategy for expanding safe and responsible oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf to help power our economy while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Our strategy makes more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas on the OCS available for development. It also requires companies to meet the strengthened environmental and safety standards we have implemented since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and spill.

These next steps build on our ongoing efforts to develop America's offshore resources, while providing a better return to taxpayers from their resources. In the past two years, oil production from the federal OCS has increased by more than a third, from 446 million barrels in 2008 to an estimated more than 600 million barrels in 2010.

Safely developing oil and gas in our oceans is a key component of a balanced energy plan. But the Obama administration also has a strong record of encouraging responsible development of oil and gas resources onshore — in places like Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and the Dakotas.

In fact, we've expanded production while also doing a better job of protecting our land, water and wildlife.

Onshore, oil production from public lands increased 5 percent from fiscal years 2009 to 2010, from 109 million barrels to 114 million barrels. U.S. natural gas production is up 7 percent from the 2008 calendar year and is at its highest level in more than 30 years.

And our Bureau of Land Management held impressive lease sales this year, including a record lease sale for Montana and the Dakotas that generated $66 million in bonus bids.

At the same time, we have worked hard to increase certainty for industry by reducing the conflict, litigation and protests that tied our nation's oil and gas leasing program in knots for many years.

When I became secretary of the interior, nearly half of parcels offered by the BLM for oil and gas development were protested, resulting in delays, extra costs and court battles. In contrast, only 1 percent of leases were protested in 1998.

The type of gridlock that developed under the last administration is unacceptable. That is why, in May 2010, BLM Director Bob Abbey and I undertook common-sense reforms to our leasing program that have resulted in fewer protests and better choices of where companies should be allowed to drill.

Our leasing reforms established a more orderly, open and environmentally sound process for developing oil and gas resources on public lands. Rather than wait for protests to develop, BLM is planning, engaging the public and evaluating environmental concerns earlier in the process. In areas where significant new oil and gas development is anticipated, the BLM now works with the public to develop master leasing plans that help guide industry to lower-conflict areas for development.

Results matter. Since we implemented the reforms, the number of protests has declined significantly and the protests that are received can now be resolved more quickly. In fiscal year 2011, 36 percent of BLM's oil and gas leases were protested — down from 47 percent in 2009.

In addition, we have worked to resolve long-standing disputes that held up projects like the Greater Natural Buttes project in Utah for several years. On that project, there's now a path forward for Anadarko to responsibly develop as many as 3,675 new wells in the Uintah Basin over the next decade.

Overall, oil imports have fallen by 9 percent since 2008, and net imports as a share of total consumption declined from 57 percent in 2008 to less than 50 percent in 2010. At the same time, 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.

To be sure, we have more work to do. We will continue to offer new areas of public lands for leasing and development. And we will continue our efforts to resolve disputes and potential conflicts early in the leasing process so that we can avoid costly and time-consuming legal battles.

But make no mistake: We are on the right path. Together with the progress we have made to stand up large-scale solar energy projects on public lands, to facilitate wisely sited transmission lines and our continuing focus on wind, geothermal, coal and other resources, we are moving ahead with a comprehensive energy plan for the country that is enhancing our energy security, creating jobs and improving protections for the environment.

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