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Policy: Environment & Energy

Examiner Editorial: American energy independence in sight despite Obama

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Opinion,Editorial,Barack Obama,Energy Department,Energy and Environment,BLM,Oil,Natural Gas,Washington Examiner,Oil Exports

Booming oil and natural gas production made possible by technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has been the lone bright spot in the U.S. economy throughout President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office. The U.S. Energy Information Administration released data last week that effectively illustrates the boom, saying "total U.S. net imports of energy, measured in terms of energy content, declined in 2013 to their lowest level in more than two decades. Growth in the production of oil and natural gas displaced imports and supported increased petroleum product exports, driving most of the decline. A large drop in energy imports together with a smaller increase in energy exports led to a 19% decrease in net energy imports from 2012 to 2013.”

The EIA also made public its latest long-term projections, including the U.S. achieving energy independence by 2037 -- that is, zero net oil imports from the Middle East and other foreign producers -- under the most optimistic of those scenarios. Driving the increasingly optimistic projections from the EIA is growing productivity in the Eagle Ford Shale area of Texas and North Dakota's Bakken Shale area. The new-rig count in Texas, for example, has zoomed from less than 100 in mid-2009 to more than 300 today, while oil production has gone from a mere 30 barrels per day in 2009 to more than 500 today, according to EIA data. No wonder an EIA spokesman told Bloomberg News “this is the first time the Annual Energy Outlook has projected that net imports' share of liquid fuels consumption could reach zero.”

Since Obama took office, total federal oil production has declined 7.8 percent and federal natural gas production has declined 21 percent.

It's not all good news on the energy front, however, thanks to Obama. The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management released new data showing the federal government's issuance of new onshore oil and natural gas leases and permits crawling along at levels that in some respects are the lowest since President Reagan was in office:

• BLM leased 1.2 million acres in 2013, down from 1.8 million acres leased the year before and the smallest area since at least 1988, the earliest year BLM reported data.

• BLM issued 1,468 oil and natural gas leases in 2013, down from 1,729 issued the year before.

• BLM issued 3,770 drilling permits in 2013, down from 4,256 permits issued the year before and the lowest level since 2002.

“This data confirms that the Obama administration is purposely stifling American energy production wherever it can. Since Obama took office, total federal oil production has declined 7.8 percent and federal natural gas production has declined 21 percent. This is unacceptable and forfeits the opportunity to create good-paying jobs and grow our economy,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings.

A Washington state Republican, Hastings is retiring at the end of the current Congress, so he is perhaps in a position to be more candid on these issues than other congressmen who are seeking re-election. The BLM data makes clear, though, that the American energy boom is happening despite, not because, of the man in the White House.

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