Domestic oil production up and going higher
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 4:21 AM
In the third and thankfully last presidential debate last week, President Obama and Mitt Romney engaged in one of their rather heated exchanges, this one over something near and dear to Oklahomans' hearts: oil production.
Republican candidate Romney challenged Obama over the lack of oil drilling on federal lands. The president attempted to point out that the United States is producing more oil domestically than it has in almost 10 years.
Romney continued to talk over the president demanding to know why more drilling wasn't taking place on federal lands.
If Romney had offered the chance, Obama could have explained it very simply. Romney is correct: There are vast acres of federal land not being drilled into. But, Obama could have explained, there is no need to drill there now because we are producing plenty of oil domestically. The president could have said that if, and only if, the country became dangerously short of domestic production, drilling on federal land could become an option. That last part would not have pleased his environmentalist supporters, but it would have been a fair assessment.
The U.S. is on track, according to experts such as IHS CERA, an energy consulting firm, for a 7 percent increase this year in crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which includes biofuels. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. crude and other liquid hydrocarbons will average 11.4 million barrels a day in 2013.
Such predictions have led some industry experts to predict that U.S. production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels a day by 2020, making North America "the new Saudi Arabia."
It would be the first time since 2002 that the U.S. has led the world in production. In 2002 the Saudis drastically cut production after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Romney is correct in that drilling on federal lands has decreased under Obama. A report earlier this year by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, found that oil production on federally held lands has declined by 17,000 barrels a day since 2009.
"About 96 percent of the increase (in oil production) took place on non-federal lands, but the overall federal share of total U.S. production fell only by about two percentage points over the 2007-2011 time frame," the report said.
The CRS report said that production on federal lands has declined by 275,000 barrels a day since its peak in 2010.
Taking into consideration the oil spill involving the BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst environmental disaster in history, the decline is understandable. That spill severely restricted production in federal waters, dropping the overall production rate.
It's easy to sit back and say that we need to drill on every piece of land, federal or private, to ensure a plentiful supply of oil that will make us independent of Middle East sheiks.
But caution must be the guide when it comes to oil and gas production on federal lands. No doubt, the industry has made great strides over the decades concerning environmentally safe drilling. Yes, to some that will seem to be an oxymoron, but it can be done.
Directional drilling has made finding and removing oil more environmentally acceptable. The extraction of oil and gas through the controversial fracking process still is a legitimate concern, but fracking has been going on in the oil fields for decades. And, believe it or not, most oil and gas companies are more aware of environmental damage and have taken the correct steps.
Still, many of our federal lands ought to remain free of any kind of drilling. No one wants to see a rig sitting next to Old Faithful. That's an exaggeration, of course, but there are lands just as important, if less well-known.
Yellowstone became the first national park in the world in 1872. Since then, 84 million acres have been added to the National Park Service. There are 94 million acres of national wildlife refuges along with national forests and other managed public lands. The total comes to more than 650 million acres under jurisdiction of the federal government.
We hear a lot of talk about preserving the future for our kids and grandkids. Preserving the natural beauty of this great country ought to be high on our priority list.
Oklahomans know as well as many and better than most the importance of oil and gas production. The industry employs thousands in the state and is the main reason Oklahoma's unemployment rate remains below the national rate.
It's not the oil and gas industry alone that helps the economy. Businesses that supply drilling pipe and railroads and trucking firms that transport oil also benefit.
The industry already supports more than 1.7 million jobs nationwide and is expected to supply another 1.3 million over the next decade. Those jobs mean more housing sales and starts, more car sales and retail sales in general increase. That translates to more sales tax and property tax income.
The mantra during the 2008 presidential campaign, thanks to former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, was "drill, baby, drill." That phrase has stuck. But, as it was then, it is simplistic.
There's far more to it and the stakes can be high. Back in the 1980s when that oil boom went bust there was some gallows humor going around best illustrated by a prayer: "Dear Lord, please send us another oil boom and this time we won't screw it up. Amen."
This might be our chance to take a step toward energy independence and this time get serious about spending money and research to find a dependable alternative fuel for the future.
Just in case we screw this one up also.
Original Print Headline: Where to drill
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
ExxonMobil drilled the world's longest offshore horizontal-reach well in the Santa Ynez Unit off the coast of California. Technologies such as extended-reach drilling help to produce more domestic supplies of oil to meet America's growing energy needs. Associated Press file