While President Obama entertained college audiences this week by telling them, “We’re not drilling in the National Mall, and we’re not drilling at your house,” the Institute for Energy Research has issued figures disputing the President’s claim that “We’re drilling all over this country.”
Drilling has indeed increase on private lands, says IE, particularly in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota. But oil production from federal lands is at a nine-year low. The graph to the left shows oil production from private and state lands (the red line) versus production from federal lands (the blue line). Private success has increased sharply since the President took office in 2009 but production from federal lands has declined. Industry officials say this is due to: 1) the shutdown in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 2) the slow walk of permitting since the offshore ban was lifted, and 3) the very slow pace of permitting on Western federal lands. Federal officials have not yet refuted any of these claims.
The graph at the right charts the decrease in oil and gas production on federal lands last year. Oil is in blue on the left, natural gas in red on the right. Oil production is down 13 percent while gas production down 10 percent. The decline in gas production is particularly notable since hydrofracking technology has produced a huge surge of output from private holdings, so that the industry now faces a gas glut.
So the President is half right, half wrong. Oil production has indeed increased 20 percent since he took office in 2009. But the increase has come entirely from private enterprise, not from any federal effort.