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Obama administration advances plan for seismic research along Atlantic coast

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Posted on March 28, 2012 at 12:01 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration will announce Wednesday that it is advancing a plan to allow new seismic research designed to help identify hidden pockets of oil and gas in Atlantic waters along the East Coast.

The move by the Interior Department is the beginning of a long path that eventually could lead to new offshore drilling off the coast from Delaware to Florida.

Senior administration officials who spoke exclusively to the Houston Chronicle confirmed the plan on condition they not be identified ahead of the official announcement.

The plan could mean new work for Houston-based seismic firms, which likely would conduct some of the first such surveys of the region in decades.

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama tries to assuage concerns about rising oil and gasoline prices ahead of the November election, amid Republican criticism that his energy policies have sent costs higher.

The administration had signaled plans to allow Atlantic seismic research before the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill stalled approval of offshore activities.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce the plan in Norfolk, Va. at Fugro Atlantic, a company that conducts geotechnical and marine research.

Future seismic research in the Atlantic waters could help guide decisions about where to allow drilling leases and equipment that generates renewable energy, such as wind turbines.

But it would be at least five years before the government sold any leases in Atlantic waters. Interior Department plans governing those decisions through 2017 do not include lease sales  in the region.

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.

Energy companies use the data to plan where to buy leases and how to prioritize projects. But they know little about what lies below federal waters along the East Coast. Existing seismic surveys of the area are more than 25 years old and were conducted with now-outdated technology.

Oil industry officials have downplayed the significance of allowing seismic surveys along the Atlantic Coast, noting the government makes no guarantee that it will let them drill. That skepticism also could limit the market for seismic research firms.

But the administration has said that collecting the data for different regions — even if they aren’t targeted immediately for development — is key to understanding their potential. Obama asked the Interior Department to speed up its search for Atlantic resources in May 2011.

Wednesday’s action takes the form of a federally required draft statement on the environmental effects of seismic surveys in the outer continental shelf along the East Coast.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on that draft environmental impact statement during hearings along the East Coast.

Source

Senators Call Obama On His Energy Lies

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Posted on March 27, 2012
by John Hinderaker

The Obama administration’s energy policies have been a disaster for America. Obama appointed a Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, who shared Obama’s desire that fossil fuel prices increase, so that it would be more expensive for you to drive your car, heat your home, buy groceries, power your laptop, and so on. Obama wanted higher prices in order to reduce carbon emissions and to enrich the Democratic Party fat cats who dominate the “green” energy industry. The administration has carried out its policy of higher fossil fuel costs by reducing exploration for oil on federal lands, imposing draconian standards on coal-fired power plants, banning normal light bulbs, and countless other measures large and small.

Now, however, Obama’s re-election campaign is in trouble, in large part because voters aren’t happy about being impoverished by Obama’s anti-energy policies. So, in an absurd turnabout, Obama has postured himself as an advocate of “drill, baby, drill.” In order to defend himself, Obama has repeatedly and consistently lied about his own administration’s policies and about America’s energy resources. That is a harsh characterization, but there is simply no other way to put it.

Today, Senators David Vitter, Jeff Sessions and John Cornyn called Obama on his lies in the form of a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Their indictment is devastating:

Dear Secretary Salazar:

We are concerned with the veracity of statements you made in recent weeks regarding domestic energy production on our federal resources. These statements are similar to claims made by other members of the Administration including the President himself. As you may know, the federal government owns almost 2.5 billion acres of mineral estate, an area larger than the entire land mass of the United States. As director of the Bureau of Land Management, Robert Abbey, testified this month, oil production on our federal property is actually down 14% and offshore production from federal areas is down 17% from only a year ago. Just last week, the Congressional Research Service issued a report revealing that 96 percent of the increase in domestic oil production since 2007 has occurred on non-federal lands. It further revealed that in 2011 production on federal public lands has actually declined by an average of 275,000 barrels per day. Oil production on private lands is indeed up year-over-year, but the Administration does not manage private lands and should not attempt to take credit for private market decisions.

Oil production on federal lands increased in 2009 and 2010 as a result of leasing and permitting decisions made before your Administration took office. However, the falloff in leasing and permitting actions under the Obama Administration is apparent, and even your own Energy Information Administration anticipates continued falloff in production in 2012 and beyond.

We also ask that you rectify the President’s claim that we only have 2% of the world’s oil. Nothing could be further from the truth, as even the Washington Post reported last week.[1] He bases this statement on U.S. “proved reserves” but the U.S. Energy Information Administration has stated that proved reserves is “not an appropriate measure for judging total resource availability in the long-term.” As Secretary of Interior, surely you are aware of the vast oil resources we possess both onshore and offshore that are currently off limits due to this Administration’s combined actions. America is endowed with resources that exceed a TRILLION barrels of oil.[2]

According to the Institute for Energy Research, “USGS estimates that unconventional U.S. oil shale resources hold 2.6 trillion barrels of oil, with about 1 trillion barrels that are considered recoverable under current economic and technological conditions. These 1 trillion barrels are nearly four times the amount of oil resources as Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves.

We provide the following examples of what we would view as further inaccurate statements by the Administration regarding the state of federal energy production and resources:

1. Claim: “Expanding offshore oil and gas production is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home.” Secretary Ken Salazar, DOI Press Release 1/26/2012

Fact: You made the two most pivotal decisions to shrink domestic offshore energy production over the last three years that could have been made. First, you eliminated the 2010-2015 OCS lease plan that would have opened areas of the Atlantic, four geologic basins off S. California, one geologic basin off N. California, while expanding areas in Alaska, including the Cook Inlet. Instead, you have proposed a new 5-year plan that excludes all of the areas of the OCS where the moratorium was lifted in 2008, and reduces the number of planned lease sales by roughly half. Essentially, the moratorium lifted by President Bush and a Democrat Congress in 2008 will continue in effect for a decade under your plan.

2. Claim: The proposed 5-year offshore lease plan will “make more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas estimated on the OCS available for development.” Secretary Salazar, DOI Press Release 11/08/2011

Fact: These numbers distort the facts. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is 1.76 billion acres. Of that 1.76 billion, less than 35 million acres are actually leased (less than 2%). Your proposed 5-year lease plan does not open a single new lease planning area, and therefore we have no way of knowing what estimates of “technologically recoverable” oil in all of the areas that remain off limits are because you have chosen to keep them off limits. Most of our OCS has not been explored for decades, and providing access to only a fraction gives us no clue what is truly there.

A more accurate statement is that your 5 year plan opens 75% of the oil and gas in areas where we think it exists because we have drilled there. We don’t know about the vast majority of the OCS that isn’t leased, much of which has not been assessed with the benefit of new information for a quarter century.

3. Claim: “Since we put in place new safety standards in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, we have approved more than 400 drilling permits. In fact, we are now permitting at levels seen before the spill, all while meeting these important new standards.” Secretary Ken Salazar, 3/12/2012

Fact: There exists no evidence that permitting for production has indeed reached pre-moratorium levels. In fact, the families impacted in the Gulf are still reeling from the impacts of the slowed pace of permitting. Exploration and permitting have yet to recover to pre-2010 levels on account of the moratorium and ensuing permitorium on shallow and deepwater permits. According to one recent study, “Prior to the deepwater drilling moratorium, the U.S. oil and natural gas offshore industry was forecasted to grow significantly due to identified prospects, mostly in the deep water. With the establishment of the moratorium and the subsequent slowdown in the issuance of drilling permits at all water depths, an estimated $18.3 billion of previously planned capital and operational expenditures did not occur in 2010 and 2011.”[3] The study further concludes that the permitting challenges have already cost 90,000 jobs. It is of importance to note that the moratorium was never endorsed by the National Academy of Engineers, as you had attempted to represent. An Inspector General investigation was required to uncover the political influence and misrepresentation by the White House and your office in an important scientific document.

4. Claim: “The fact of the matter is that we are producing more from public lands, both oil and gas, both onshore as well as offshore, than at any time in recent memory. And when you look back at the years of 2009, 2010, and 2011, we’ve continued to make millions and millions of acres of the public estate available both on the land, as well as on the sea.” Secretary Ken Salazar, 3/12/2012

Fact: As we pointed out earlier in this letter, there is significant lag time to production after the process of leasing. Presumably this is the reason for your repeated observation that “there is no immediate fix” for higher gas prices. After a company has leased property they then have to explore, develop and produce, with each stage requiring new permits and compliance with federal processes. The production gains we saw in 2009 and 2010 were the result of leasing and permitting that occurred in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and was just beginning to come online. However, by 2011 we began to experience the impacts from the moratorium and falloff of leasing and permitting under your leadership. Total oil production on federal lands is down 14% over the previous year, offshore is even worse at down 17%, and federal lands saw the fewest number of new onshore leases since 1984. You also failed to hold a single offshore lease sale in fiscal year 2011.

As a further example, in 2008 the industry spent $2.6 billion to obtain 487 leases in the Chukchi Sea for production offshore Alaska. So far, not a single well has been drilled on any of these leases. There have also been numerous new regulatory roadblocks and permit withdrawals from federal onshore production since you took over leadership of the Agency. Examples of onshore leasing challenges include your withdrawn and slowed leasing in the West, including Montana and the Dakotas.

In July of 2008, then as a United States Senator, you had an opportunity to support increasing domestic energy production, if the price of gas increased beyond a certain threshold. You repeatedly objected to increasing domestic energy production, even if the price of gas were to have reached $10 per gallon.

Although gas prices are not $10 per gallon, they are increasingly impacting our economy and fellow Americans, particularly low-income and middle-class families. We are hopeful that similarly to Secretary Chu, you have reevaluated your position on gas prices and will redirect your efforts to alter what the agency has done to limit future production, and will instead work to develop our truly vast domestic oil resources, resources that well exceed “2%” of the world’s oil.

[1] The Washington Post

[2] NORTH AMERICAN ENERGY INVENTORY, Institute for Energy Research, December, 2011.

[3] The State of the Offshore U.S. Oil and Gas Industry, An in-depth study of the outlook of the industry investment flows offshore, Quest Offshore Resources, Inc., December 2011.

Sincerely,

Jeff Sessions
David Vitter
John Cornyn

Of all the reasons why it is imperative to bring the Obama administration to an end in January, its pervasive dishonesty is near the top of the list.

Source

Federal Court’s Summary Judgment Compels Obama Administration to Act on Deepwater Drilling Permits (…Again)

Posted by: Jim Adams on Tuesday
May 10, 2011, 16:34

A federal judge today ruled that the Obama administration has “unlawfully and improperly delayed” permit applications for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ordered the Obama administration to act within 30 days on permits that it has been dragging its feet on.

“Although the government has begun to issue some permit applications, plainly because of this lawsuit, the future of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico remains elusive; plaintiffs’ other long-pending permit applications speak loudly to this,” Judge Feldman wrote in his ruling. “Moreover, the government’s conduct of delay in deepwater drilling in the Gulf dramatically presents far more than the mere possibility of persistent and repetitious intentional delays in processing . . . permit applications.”

The judge added: “The government has presented no credible assurances that the permitting process will return to one marked by predictability and certainty. Processing a scant few applications is at best a tactical ploy in a real world setting.”

We could not have said it better. For months, the Obama administration has aggressively dug in its heels to maintain its de facto moratorium on oil drilling. We’ve only seen the administration move – reluctantly – when shoved.

Fortunately, there are some leaders willing to give the administration a firm push. Today, the House is voting on H.R. 1229, which would require the Interior Secretary to decide on a drilling permit within 30 days of receiving an application.

Clearly, a lot of folks think the Obama administration needs a kick in the pants – whether in the form of a court order or an act of Congress — to do its job.

Americans don’t expect government to solve our problems. But we do hope our government won’t be the cause of our problems. Right now, the Obama administration is not only causing problems – unemployment, higher gas prices, more dependence on foreign oil – but it’s standing in the way of a solution.

It’s time that Gulf workers got back to work exploring for domestic oil. Americans want it, Congressional leaders are demanding it, and a federal judge has ordered it. What more does the Obama administration need to do its job?

Jim Adams is the President of the Offshore Marine Service Association. OMSA represents the owners and operators of U.S. flag offshore service vessels and the shipyards and other businesses that support that industry.

Original Article

Editorial: Phony ‘Safety’ Fears Cripple U.S. Oil

Posted 05/09/2011 06:55 PM ET
IBD Editorials

Regulation: The Energy Department wants to find ways to make hydraulic fracturing, a fast-growing method of extracting natural gas, safer and cleaner. Say, isn’t that how the administration justified its offshore drilling ban?

We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you drill safely. That was the canard thrown out by President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar when they announced the ban on offshore drilling following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill.

Since then the drilling industry in the Gulf of Mexico has collapsed and output has dropped. Although the ban was ostensibly lifted, it has been replaced by a new permit system that is so slow that rigs have left the Gulf for foreign shores. At least one drilling company has filed for bankruptcy.

The safety mantra was raised once again last Thursday when Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the appointment of a seven-member panel to study hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking,” and come up with new safety standards that address concerns raised by environmentalists.

The process involves the injection under high pressure of fluids, mainly water with a few chemicals added, to fracture the porous shale rock found in huge formations in the northeast and Rocky Mountain West and get at the oil and gas trapped inside the porous rock.

Environmentalists contend these chemical additives contaminate ground water supplies.

“America’s vast natural gas resources can generate many new jobs and provide significant environmental benefits,” Chu said. “But we need to ensure we harness these resources safely.” It was a similar “but” that led the Obama administration to impose a seven-year ban on offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, off both coasts and in the energy-rich Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska.

The new panel includes such friends of domestic energy as Kathleen McGinty, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and an aide to Al Gore when he was a senator, and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

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It was a similar panel created by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after the Deepwater Horizon blowout that led to the current moratoria on off shore drilling.

But so committed is this administration in its opposition to fossil fuel extraction, except in Brazil, that it had to doctor that panel’s evaluations to make it seem they endorsed the drilling ban when they did not.

The administration was even found in contempt of court for trying to reinstate its moratorium after a judge issued an injunction on the grounds that the moratorium was too broad in its scope and totally unjustified based on the available evidence.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman argued Salazar’s original Gulf drilling moratorium was based on flawed reasoning.

“If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?” Feldman asked. “That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

We think so too.

We believe the safety issue is a cover for the Obama administration’s ideologically driven animus toward fossil fuels and its deliberate campaign to raise energy prices — and thereby to make its favored “green” alternatives look more competitive and attractive.

Original Article

US concerned about Cuba drilling

A top US official said they were concerned about Cuba opening its offshore waters to oil drilling, while Mexico said the three countries should try to work out differences.

“For us it is an issue of concern,” said US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about drilling in Cuban waters. “Obviously, because it’s located 60 miles off the coast of Florida … it’s an issue that we’re monitoring carefully.”

In light of the BP oil spill nearly a year ago, the US is now worried that Cuba is unable to ensure its offshore drilling will be safe, Reuters reported.

Salazar spoke to reporters during a break at a day-long international conference sponsored by the US Interior Department on best safety practices for drilling in deep waters.

Cuba was not among the dozen or so countries invited to the conference.

Cuba is eager to develop its oil resources in the Gulf of Mexico, which it estimates could total 20 billion barrels of crude. The US pegs the total at a more modest 5 billion barrels.

Mario Budebo, an undersecretary at Mexico’s Ministry of Energy, said his country had an offshore boundary dispute with Cuba and was less concerned about drilling safely in Cuban waters.

He said the three countries should “get together and have discussions” about Cuba’s offshore drilling activities.

“That is still something that we have to deal with and put Cuba together (at) the table,” said Budebo.

Salazar did not respond to Budebo’s suggestion. When asked later if Salazar supported the idea, an Interior spokesperson referred the question to the US State Department.

The US does not have full formal relations with Cuba.

But other Interior officials recently met with executives from Spanish oil giant Repsol about the company’s plans to drill in Cuban waters.

Repsol, in a consortium with Norway’s Statoil and a unit of India’s ONGC, plans to start drilling offshore Cuba by the end of the summer.

( Original Article )

upstreamonline.com

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