Unlocking the Abundance Beneath our Feet

March 8, 2013

One of the most important aspects of our economy is the price of energy.  It affects virtually every aspect of our lives.  Higher oil prices, for example, lead to higher energy costs.  Families are forced to spend more and more of their incomes on heating and electricity bills.  Food and other goods become more expensive as the price of producing and shipping rises.  Businesses are harmed as costs go up. 

And perhaps none are as painful and intimately felt as the cost of gas.

When President Obama took office in 2009 the price of gas was $1.838 a gallon.  Now, as Obama begins his second term, the cost of gas has nearly doubled.  As of Feb. 11, 2013, the average price at the pump had risen to $3.611, an increase of an astounding 96%.  It was the highest price of gas for the month of February ever recorded.

Many argue that Obama is not to blame for the high gas prices.  The President has repeatedly pointed out that oil production is actually up under his presidency.  He blames an array of factors for the rising prices, citing trouble in the Middle East, Hurricane Katrina, and even blaming his predecessor.  While it is true that no one factor can be blamed for the rising gas prices, the president does have considerable tools at his disposal to keep the price from fluctuating and rising as much as it has since he has taken office. 

While it is true that overall production of oil has increased under President Obama, it is mostly due to an increase in development on private lands – a function largely beyond the President’s control. On public lands, where the president does have considerable influence, Obama has significantly limited the amount of oil production.  In contrast, President Clinton oversaw nearly twice the number of annual leases of public lands. President Clinton had an annual average of 3764 leases.  Since Obama has taken office that number has plummeted to a dismal 1856, despite the Department of Interior having nearly doubled its budget from the late 1990’s.  The Outer Continental Shelf has also been almost completely closed to drilling. 

The Bush administration, after extensive environmental studies and public commenting periods, opened up large parts of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts for energy exploration.  The Obama administration closed the entire Pacific and Atlantic coasts, as well as parts of Alaska, for development until 2017. 

Utah has not escaped the effects of Obama’s policies.  Last year, Obama’s Secretary of the Interior cancelled leases for oil-shale development on federal lands in Utah, as well as Colorado and Wyoming.  In total, the decision closed 1.6 million acres.  There are countless examples of Obama closing federal lands to energy development, many times scrapping projects that had already approved even after expensive studies determined the projects would have minimal environmental impact. 

With the huge amounts of public lands that have been closed to energy development, it is little wonder that the price of gas has skyrocketed over the last few years.  Increasing domestic production would help increase supply, helping to lower prices. 

But gas prices are not the only reason to fight for increased domestic production.  Increasing domestic supply would help decrease our dependence on foreign oil.  It would stabilize the supply and make the price less susceptible to supply shocks from outside factors.  It also has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs.

For these reasons, I have recently sponsored legislation aimed at increasing the domestic production of oil.  The legislation will help lower and stabilize gas prices, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create the high paying jobs our economy desperately needs.

This legislation would open the closed areas of the OCS for mineral drilling and expedite a new 5-year lease plan that provides more than double the access under the current 5-year plan.  It would open ANWR to oil and gas production, creating over 700,000 jobs in the process.  It would expedite judicial review of projects to streamline the process and help avoid extended legal challenges.  Over the next 30 years the legislation could add 2 million jobs, $10 trillion to our GDP, and over $2.2 trillion in new tax revenue.

Our country has been incredibly blessed with abundant resources that could be a great benefit to the citizens of our great country and our economy. In addition, new modern technologies have made the extraction of that oil more efficient and environmentally friendly than ever before.  However, the current administration’s extreme stance on oil production on public lands has hindered our economic recovery and hurts every family in America.  By increasing our domestic production we can ensure that we are leaving a thriving economy for generations to come.