Department of the Interior

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September 14, 2005
CONTACT: John Wright
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Assistant Secretary Watson Discusses Efforts to Meet America's Natural Gas Demand
The Rocky Mountain basins hold the largest onshore resource of natural gas

WASHINGTON, DC - In a testimony today before the House Government Reform Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Resources, Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, told members that the Bush administration is working to meet the nation's energy demand by implementing provisions of the Energy Policy Act, developing innovations to improve program effectiveness, to reduce cost and continuing efforts to improve internal processes.

"The demand for energy in this country has outstripped domestic energy production," Watson said. "Although domestic energy production has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, population growth, increased economic activity and more intensive use of energy in the residential and transportation sectors, have resulted in significantly higher demands, Americans have made a choice to shift toward the use of clean-burning natural gas."

In highlighting efforts to increase the development of clean-burning natural gas, Watson indicated that public lands managed by the Interior Department play a significant role in the development of America's natural gas. "More than half of the acreage in the Rocky Mountain basins are under federal management, and there are significant resources in these basins," she said.

"The Rocky Mountain basins hold the largest onshore resource of natural gas in the country and the second largest resource of natural gas after the Outer Continental Shelf," Watson said. "These basins contain an estimated 139 trillion cubic feet, enough to heat the 55 million homes that use natural gas for almost 30 years."

Watson noted that in fiscal year 2002, 2.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas were produced from federal (non-Indian) lands. In fiscal years 2003 and 2004, 2.2 Tcf and 3.1 Tcf, respectively, were produced. In addition to the federal onshore leases, the Bureau of Land Management supervises the operational activities of 3,700 producing Indian oil and gas leases. In FY 2004 308 million cubic feet of natural gas were produced from American Indian lands.

Domestic production from onshore oil and gas wells accounts for about 11 percent of the nation's natural gas and 5 percent of the nation's oil. Watson also indicated that oil and gas produced from the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico plays a major role in supplying America's daily energy needs, accounting for about 29 percent of domestic oil production and 21 percent of domestic gas production.

"The President's National Energy Policy places a high value on our environment and the quality of life it supports. Environmentally sound energy production allows Americans to live well and wisely," Watson said. "The policy not only includes enhancing supplies of renewable and nonrenewable energy, but also placing an important focus on conservation. Conservation is the most immediate thing Americans can do to improve energy demand."

Lands managed by the Interior Department produce about 30 percent of the nation's energy supply. Approximately one-third of the country's natural gas, coal and oil, and one-half of geothermal, 17 percent of hydropower, and 10 percent of wind power are produced in areas managed by Interior.

Assistant Secretary Watson is responsible for providing policy, priorities and oversight to the BLM, Minerals Management Service, and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. These three bureaus have responsibility for the production of our domestic oil, natural gas and coal used to heat and cool our homes, fuel our cars and trucks, and power our high-tech economy.

For more information on the Interior Department's energy initiatives on public lands, visit /energy.html