Department Of Interior

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Contact:John Wright
For Immediate Release: June 24, 2003

Public Lands: Meeting America's Energy Needs
President Bush's National Energy Policy laid
out a comprehensive, long-term energy strategy

WASHINGTON -- At a congressional hearing today, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson told the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals Resources that Americans face a great challenge in meeting the country's energy needs. "Energy is the cornerstone of the nation's economy," Watson said. "We consume much more than we produce and imports of natural gas won't meet the increased demands."

The country produces 86 percent of its natural gas domestically, but 90 percent of the new powerplants will be fueled by clean-burning natural gas. Mature basins are declining, while access to new basins is not keeping pace. A Department of Energy report indicates that over the next 20 years, consumption of natural gas in the United States is projected to grow by more than 50 percent; while production, if it grows at the rate of the last 10 years, will grow by only 14 percent.

"We all share an important interest in the management and stewardship of America's natural resources and our energy future," Watson said. "The Bush Administration is committed to a long-term strategy that produces traditional energy on federal lands in an environmentally responsible way."

The President's National Energy Policy encourages development of a cleaner, more diverse portfolio 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 source.

"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."

Watson noted that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000, [Public Law 106-469] which was mandated by Congress, directed the Interior Department to conduct a national inventory of oil and natural gas resources beneath federal lands and the constraints that may limit the development of those resources. The report, titled "Scientific Inventory of Onshore Federal Lands Oil and Gas Resources and Reserves and the Extent and Nature of Restrictions and Impediments to their Development," was released January 2003. The Bureau of Land Management is already using the data in their land-use planning process for public lands management.

"The EPCA report identifies whether public lands are open to leasing for oil and natural gas," Watson said. "The inventory did not address other potential constraints to development that result from the permit process and other post-lease conditions of approval. These constraints can add considerable time to the development of natural gas from federal land."

The Interior Department manages more than 500 million acres of public land, or one out of every five 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.

"The President's National Energy Policy recognizes that conservation and efficiency, diversification of our energy supply, and increased production of renewable and nonrenewable resources are critical to our energy future," Watson said. "Consumer education relating to energy use and production is a key recommendation of the policy."

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 3.9 billion barrels of oil and 138.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Of this amount, 2.2 Bbbl of oil and 86.6 Tcf of natural gas are available under leasing stipulations. Additionally, 1.1 Bbbl of oil and 36 Tcf of natural gas are available for leasing with restrictions on oil and gas operations beyond standard stipulations.


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