As President Obama unveiled a plan to cut U.S. oil imports by one-third on Wednesday, the Interior Department released a report showing that oil and gas companies are sitting on vast acres of unused or inactive federal leases. If companies developed the 70 percent of their leases in the Gulf of Mexico that are idle, the U.S. could have access to up to 11.6 billion barrels of crude oil, enough to power the U.S. for two years, as well as 59.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Are oil companies the big barrier to domestic oil production?
No, this report is smoke and mirrors: The Obama administration's "revelation is nothing new," says John Mavretich at the Institute for Energy Research. The number of idle leases might look impressive, but it's "misleading." It's "a historical fact that only about 30 percent of leases will ever produce energy." So Obama's merely rehashing "old arguments" to justify keeping "taxpayer-owned" oil reserves "under lock and key."
"Secretary Salazar discovers that sun doesn't shine at night"
Yes, Big Oil should develop these leases first: While Republicans and "Big Oil are out there spinning talking points," says Matt Garrington at The Checks & Balances Project, the numbers tell the real story: New drilling permits are being handed out faster and faster, all while oil speculators are sitting on 21 million acres of idle public lands, without even bothering to see if they're productive. Kudos to the Obama team for clearing up "the muddy waters around the drilling debate."
"Clearing up muddy waters on the oil and gas debate"
Either way, Obama just can't catch a break: The only certainty as we enter the next fight over energy policy is that "energy insiders will likely continue to bemoan the nations' lack of a coherent energy policy," says Steve Hargreaves in CNNMoney.com. Obama has a mixed record, tending toward the "restrictive," but mostly he's been plagued by "pretty lousy luck." He pushes offshore drilling, we get the BP spill; he pushes nuclear, we get Japan's meltdown. Better luck this time!
"Obama's cursed energy hand"