Oil and gas production on federal lands is in free fall under Obama

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Oil and gas production has stalled on federal lands for the third year in a row under the Obama administration, despite booming energy production on private and state lands, according to a new government report.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) says that the share of oil and gas production coming from federal lands have plummeted from 2009 to 2013. Oil production on federal lands fell by 11 percent over this time period and natural gas production fell by 28 percent.

Federal onshore oil production fell for the third year in a row, while offshore oil production increased slightly — just enough to increase total oil production by 15,300 barrels per day in 2013 above 2012 levels.

But total federal oil production is still 316,800 barrels per day below 2010 levels of 1,975,100 barrels per day. The energy industry and federal lawmakers have long criticized the Obama administration for saddling energy producers with lengthy permitting times and environmental review processes.

“The CRS report clearly shows that where the federal government has the most control, on federal lands, it is suppressing development of the energy that all Americans own while preventing job creation and economic prosperity,” said Tim Wigley, president of pro-drilling Western Energy Alliance.

The share of U.S. oil production on federal lands has fallen to a five-year low, according to CRS, from 33.8 percent in 2009 to only 23 percent last year. The share of natural gas production on federal lands has also reached a five-year low of 15.2 percent last year — down from 24.9 percent in 2009.

While energy production on federal lands has fallen in recent years, production on private and state lands has boomed, according to CRS. Oil production on non-federal lands has soared by 61 percent since 2009 and natural gas production has jumped up 33 percent during that time.

“The huge success of the oil and natural gas industry increasing energy security and bringing the country out of recession is despite, not because of, the policies of this Administration,” Wigley said.

The CRS attributes much of the success of private and state lands to “favorable geology and the relative ease of leasing from private parties” for oil and to “big shale gas plays” for the success of natural gas production.

But this discounts the vast oil and gas shale resources being closed off to development by the Obama administration, according to the Western Energy Alliance.

WEA says that CRS “doesn’t consider that federal lands atop the Bakken, Niobrara and other major plays are lagging adjacent non-federal lands. In addition, prospective shales like the Mancos are being kept off limits by federal policies, so we do not truly know the extent of shale plays predominated by federal lands.”

According to the conservative American Action Forum (AAF), federal lands and waters hold about 43 percent of all domestic oil reserves and 72 percent of oil shale acreage. But the Obama administration has stifled energy production through long permitting times and keeping more land off-limits to oil and gas drilling.

Last year, the Obama administration sold the lowest amount of oil and gas leases since 1988 and approved the fewest drilling permits since 2002. Getting a permit approved on federal lands take 194 days on average, according to government data. Drilling permitting on state lands can take anywhere from a few days to about one month.

“North Dakota, which has dramatically increased oil and natural gas production, provides an example that the country should follow,” Wigley said. “With a business climate that encourages rather than constrains energy development, it enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and huge budget surpluses.”

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