Department of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: March 19, 2003

America's Energy: Imbalance Between Consumption and Domestic Production

To address the nation's growing energy needs we must optimize leasing opportunities on federal lands

WASHINGTON-At a congressional hearing today, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, Rebecca Watson told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources that America faces an energy challenge because of a fundamental imbalance between energy consumption and domestic energy production.

"We must look at ways to narrow the gap between the amount of energy we use and the amount we produce. There is no one single solution," Watson said. "Achieving the goal of secure, affordable and environmentally sound energy will require diligent, concerted efforts on many fronts on both the supply and demand sides of the energy equation."

The United States currently consumes about 7 billion barrels of oil per year of which about 4 billion barrels are imported and 3 billion barrels are produced domestically. The president proposes to open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to environmentally responsible oil and gas exploration, using newly developed, available, environmentally friendly technology. According to the latest assessments, ANWR is the largest untapped source of domestic petroleum and would equal nearly 60 years of imports from Iraq.

The Interior Department manages more than 500 million acres of public land, or one out of every 5 acres of U.S. land. Interior-managed lands account for about 30 percent of America's domestic energy production, including 48 percent of geothermal production, 35 percent of natural gas production (25 percent offshore and 10 percent onshore), 35 percent of coal production, 35 percent of oil production (30 percent offshore and 5 percent onshore), 20 percent of wind power, and 17 percent of hydropower.

Energy reserves contained in the lands and offshore areas managed by the Department of the Interior are an important source of potential energy development and production. Estimates suggest that these lands contain approximately 68 percent of all undiscovered U.S. oil resources and 74 percent of undiscovered natural gas resources.

"We are looking at ways to increase renewable and non-renewable energy production on federal lands," Watson said. "Improving business functions and utilizing best management practices allows the Department to make timely and informed decisions using the best available information and science."

Watson noted that President Bush's National Energy Policy laid out a comprehensive, long-term energy strategy for securing America's energy future. "It is a strategy that recognizes that to reduce our rising dependence on foreign sources of energy, we must also increase domestic production."

"To address the nation's growing energy needs, we must optimize leasing opportunities on federal lands. Fossil fuel development is only a part of the solution to the nation's energy issues," Watson said. "Increased energy conservation and alternative and renewable sources are also critical components of the president's balanced, comprehensive energy policy."

The National Energy Policy encourages development of a cleaner, more diverse portfolios of domestic renewable energy sources. The policy includes geothermal, wind, solar and biomass, as well as continued research into using hydrogen as an alternative energy carrier.

Watson said as part of the department's efforts to advance the president's National Energy Policy, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently announced the availability of a new report that identifies and evaluates renewable energy resources on public lands.

The report, titled "Assessing the Potential for Renewable Energy on Public Lands," will help federal land managers make decisions on prioritizing land use activities that will increase development of renewable energy resources on public lands in the West (except Alaska). The report studied resources on BLM, Tribal and Forest Service lands.

The assessment was undertaken in response to a task developed from the president's National Energy Policy. The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory formed a partnership in June 2001 to conduct an assessment of access to renewable energy resources on BLM managed federal lands in the western United States.

The sources of renewable energy addressed in the report include wind, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating), biomass and geothermal energy. Federal land managers will use the report's findings in land use planning activities to prioritize land use plans and to increase the development and use of renewable energy resources on public lands.

Public land managers can use this report in tandem with the recently released Energy Policy and Conservation Act report that was requested by Congress. The EPCA report assesses access to nonrenewable energy (oil and gas) on public lands. The two reports identify areas of high potential for energy.

Coalbed natural gas from public lands can and should play a role in meeting the nation's increasing energy needs. Also known as coalbed methane, coalbed natural gas accounts for about 9.6 percent of the total natural gas reserves in the United States. The Rocky Mountain States and New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana hold an estimated 30 to 40 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas resources associated with coal.

The department is also taking steps to ensure that the Outer Continental Shelf remains a solid contributor to our nation's energy and economic security by holding lease sales in available areas on schedule under the Minerals Management Service's 5-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program (2002-2007). The Plan calls for 20 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and certain areas' off-shore Alaska during the 5-year time frame. Current estimates show that these areas could contain economically recoverable resources of up to 22 billion barrels of oil and 61 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Watson noted that the Interior Department is committed to making public input into decision making the cornerstone of its process by practicing Secretary Norton's Four-C's: they are consultation, cooperation, and communication all in the service of conservation. These efforts have cultivated a community-based conservation, citizen-centered stewardship of the public lands that has benefitted all public land users.

"Good stewardship of America's public lands dictates that we use energy efficiently and conserve resources," Watson said. "The president's energy plan will increase the quality of life for Americans by providing stable, reliable energy and protecting the environment."

The Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management has administrative and managerial responsibility for the Bureau of Land Management, the Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.




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