The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

New U.S. Energy Course Starts Offshore

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted December 21, 2016

As his presidency winds down, President Obama, in all-too-familiar fashion, is choosing politics over progress on energy issues. There's an EPA study that recklessly retreats from the solid science – and the agency’s own draft conclusion – supporting the safety of hydraulic fracturing. There's the extraordinary halting of the nearly completed Dakota Access Pipeline. This week the administration removed key parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from future offshore energy development. ClearView Energy’s Kevin Book in the Wall Street Journal:

“What appears to be happening is the Obama administration is trying to fill the sky with so many last-minute actions and rules, hoping that the new administration and Republicans in Congress can’t knock all of them out of the sky.”

Indeed, actions and rules that fly in the face of America’s energy reality, success and potential – and with the views of an overwhelming majority of voting Americans as detailed in these Election Day polling results:

  • 80 percent support increased domestic oil and natural gas production.
  • 86 percent agree that increased access to U.S. oil and natural gas reserves could lead to more American jobs.
  • 87 percent agree that increased access to oil and gas reserves could help stimulate the economy.
  • 82 percent agree that increased access could help lower costs for consumers.
  • 85 percent agree that increased access could help strengthen America’s energy security.
  • 81 percent support increased energy infrastructure development.

Access and infrastructure: two key areas for job creation, economic growth and U.S. security.

It’s time to move forward, and a top priority should be fully embracing the opportunity presented by future U.S. offshore energy development in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans – opportunity that’s threatened by the president’s just-announced withdrawals. Here’s the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) map showing the so-called “permanent” withdrawals of areas in the Atlantic, totaling 3.8 million acres:


Obama’s withdrawals in the Arctic, encompassing 115 million acres, are even more dramatic, given that the Beaufort and Chukchi seas are believed to hold 23.6 billion barrels of oil and more than 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas:


Basically, these moves are intended to ban future oil and natural gas development in 100 percent of the Chukchi and 95.7 percent in the Beaufort – reducing industry’s access in the Arctic from about 125 million acres to 2.8 million acres. API Upstream Director Erik Milito:

“Our national security depends on our ability to produce oil and natural gas here in the United States. This proposal would take us in the wrong direction just as we have become world leader in production and refining of oil and natural gas and in reduction of carbon emissions. Blocking offshore exploration weakens our national security, destroys good-paying jobs and could make energy less affordable for consumers. Fortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent ban, and we look forward to working with the new administration on fulfilling the will of American voters on energy production.”

U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska:

“I’ve been adamant with this administration; Alaska is not and should not be used as the poster child for a pandering environmental agenda. This decision only strengthens our resolve – as a resources oriented state – to overturn the heavy hand of government and empower our people and communities with new social and economic opportunities. The groundwork is already being laid to overturn this terrible decision.”

Put another way, the total U.S. outer continental shelf is 1,712.26 million acres. With this latest announcement, the Obama administration has set 94 percent of offshore federal acreage off limits for development.

The purpose of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which the president used to authorize his withdrawals, is to make the OCS “available for expeditious and orderly development.” Permanent and unilateral withdrawals disregard the intent of the law and, among other things, conflict with the special role OCSLA gives to governors in OCS leasing decisions.

We need to change our course on energy – in offshore policy and other areas – to benefit American consumers, U.S. businesses, our economy and the country’s energy security. Given the fact it takes years to realize the benefits of offshore energy development, the administration’s decision to shelve much of America’s offshore potential is devastatingly shortsighted, bordering on the irresponsible, in the face of projected increasing global demand for oil and natural gas. America’s oil and gas companies have the experience to safely develop offshore resources. The technologies and expertise already exist to conduct safe operations even in the Arctic’s harsh environment. Milito:

“We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this decision as the nation continues to need a robust strategy for developing offshore and onshore energy. The U.S. offshore industry has a long history of safe operations that have advanced the energy security of our nation and contributed significantly to our nation’s economy.”


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.