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Oil leaders, GOP allies, downplay administration’s seismic plans

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House Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, leads a committee hearing. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am
by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration’s announcement that it may allow seismic studies potentially paving the way for offshore drilling along the East Coast is political posturing designed to distract voters concerned about high gasoline prices, oil industry leaders and Republican lawmakers said today.

The administration’s move “continues the president’s election-year political ploy of giving speeches and talking about drilling after having spent the first three years in office blocking, delaying and driving up the cost of producing energy in America,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. “The president is focused on trying to talk his way out of what he’s done, rather than taking real steps to boost American energy production.”

At issue is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement in Norfolk, Va., this morning that the government is assessing the environmental effects of allowing seismic surveys along the mid- and south-Atlantic that could help locate hidden pockets of oil and gas. If ultimately approved, the studies by private geological research companies also could help guide decisions about where to place renewable energy projects off the coast.

The Interior Department is issuing a draft environmental impact statement that assesses the consequences of seismic research on marine life in the area. The Obama administration had planned to release a similar document in 2010, before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

If the draft environmental assessment is finalized after public comments and hearings, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could give companies permits to conduct the studies off the coasts of eight East Coast states.

Salazar said that if the geological research turned up promising results, that could open the door to offshore drilling in the area within five years, even though the administration currently has ruled out that kind of exploration before 2017. A government plan for selling offshore drilling leases from 2012 to 2017 does not include any auctions of Atlantic territory.

“If the information that is developed allows us to move forward in a quicker time frame, we can always come in with an amendment,” Salazar said. “We’re not prejudging that at this point in time. My view is … we need to develop information so we can make those wise decisions.”

Industry officials noted that under federal laws, it could take years for the government to revise the 2012-2017 leasing plan, even if federal officials decided to pursue Atlantic drilling.

Erik Milito, upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, said the administration is repackaging old news and old plans to make it appear it is making real progress to encourage more domestic energy development.

“This is political rhetoric to make it appear the administration is doing something on gas prices, but in reality it is little more than an empty gesture,” Milito said.

Randall Luthi, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, likened the administration’s announcement to giving the industry “a canoe with no oars, since there are no lease sales planned anywhere off the East Coast.”

If allowed to conduct seismic surveys, geological research firms would ultimately give the resulting information to the government and sell it to companies eager to analyze the data.

But Milito questioned whether seismic companies would pursue the work, given that some of their best customers — oil companies — wouldn’t be able to use it to plan offshore drilling for years, if at all.

“Without an Atlantic coast lease sale in their five-year plan, the administration’s wishful thinking on seismic research has no ultimate purpose,” Milito said. “The White House has banned lease sales in the Atlantic for at least the next five years, discouraging the investment and job creation, and ultimately production, which would make seismic exploration valuable.”

Still, at least six companies already have told the government they want to conduct seismic research along the East Coast.

“We have gotten significant expressions of interest from companies in contracting for these seismic surveys,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “I am confident that, assuming the process continues on the track we anticipate, that there will be significant interest next year in conducting these surveys.”

Geological research uses seismic waves to map what lies underground or beneath the ocean floor. The shock waves — which some environmental advocates say may harm marine life — map the density of subterranean material and can gives clues about possible oil and gas.

Seismic studies also help identify geologic hazards and archaeological resources in the seabed — information useful in determining the placement of renewable energy infrastructure as well as oil and gas equipment.

The existing seismic surveys of the Atlantic coast are decades old, and in the years since, “there have been enormous technological advances,” Salazar noted.

“We do need to have seismic moving forward so we can really understand what the resource potential is,” Salazar added.

Source

Obama’s Anti-Energy Policies Are Bankrupting America

Published on May 5, 2011 by HeritageFoundation

Randall Stilley has witnessed firsthand the Obama administration‘s job-killing agenda. As the president and chief executive of Seahawk Drilling, he had to lay off 632 employees before filing for bankruptcy — a direct result of President Obama’s anti-energy policies.

“As an American,” he told us, “you never want to look at your own government and say they’re hurting you personally, they’re hurting your business and they’re doing it in a way that’s irresponsible. I’m not very proud of our government right now and the way they handled this.”

Randall Stilley has witnessed firsthand the Obama administration’s job-killing agenda. As the president and chief executive of Seahawk Drilling, he had to lay off 632 employees before filing for bankruptcy — a direct result of President Barack Obama’s anti-energy policies.

Stilley’s company owned and operated 20 shallow-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The lack of energy production — a consequence of Obama’s drilling moratorium and subsequent “permitorium” — led to Seahawk’s demise. Now he’s speaking out, sharing Seahawk’s story in a new video from Heritage and the Institute for Energy Research. (Click to watch.)

It’s an unfortunate example of how policies in Washington are harming American jobs and also squelching energy production at a time when consumers are paying $4-per-gallon for gasoline.

Fortunately, not everyone in the nation’s capital is content with higher prices and fewer jobs. Today the U.S. House considers the first of several bills that directly addresses energy and jobs. Lawmakers will vote today on legislation that requires the Obama administration to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and in the waters offshore Virginia.

It’s a welcome change from the anti-drilling policies first imposed by the Obama administration one year ago. On May 6, 2010, the first moratorium on Gulf drilling took effect, followed by a longer ban that lasted until October. But even after it was lifted, few deepwater permits have been issued.

The long-term implications are disastrous for America. That prompted House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) to pursue a remedy through legislation. Today’s vote would ensure that companies continue energy development by requiring lease sales. Two other bills would speed up the permitting process and craft a long-term plan for offshore lease sales.

“What we’re proposing is to lower gas prices, create American jobs, which ironically will help drive up government revenues, and ultimately, in the wake of all the turmoil we’ve seen in the world, create an environment in which we are energy independent or on a path to energy independence,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) explained yesterday.

Even without the president’s signature, the legislation has already had a positive impact. After it passed in committee, the Obama administration promised to hold one lease sale in 2011. (Ever since 1958, there has been at least one lease sale every year.)

But while one lease sale is better than none, Hastings isn’t satisfied. He wants the Obama administration to hold four lease sales before June 2012  – including one off the coast of Virginia.

Aside from creating new jobs and discovering new sources of energy, the lease sales contribute a substantial sum of revenue for the federal treasury. In 2008, the offshore industry paid $9.4 billion for bids on new leases. Last year, that figure dropped to $979 million in lease bids.

The drop in revenue is a reflection of the Obama administration’s anti-energy policies. And lease sales are only part of the equation. According to the government’s own Energy Information Administration, production in the Gulf of Mexico will drop by 190,000 barrels per day. That means less money from royalty payments on offshore rigs as well.

Faced with mounting criticism, the Obama administration has defended its policies as a safety precaution following last year’s oil spill. But one year later, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is issuing drilling permits at such a slow pace that it’s hard to swallow the explanation.

At the same time, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are seeking new ways to penalize energy businesses. As Curtis Dubay and Nick Loris write on The Foundry, a proposal from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) would significantly increase taxes paid by U.S. oil and gas companies competing abroad — exactly the wrong approach with gas prices on the rise.

Meanwhile, job creators like Leslie Bertucci and Randall Stilley continue to bear the brunt of the Obama administration’s misguided policies. Bertucci, who told us last month about her company’s struggle to survive, has dipped into personal savings to avoid layoffs.

Stilley didn’t have that option at Seahawk. And he’s not optimistic about what the future holds under this administration.

“As an American,” he told us, “you never want to look at your own government and say they’re hurting you personally, they’re hurting your business and they’re doing it in a way that’s irresponsible. I’m not very proud of our government right now and the way they handled this.”

Original Article

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