More than a few eyebrows were raised last week during President Obama's State of the Union speech when he talked about the necessity for “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” That statement was widely taken as an indication Obama is or will claim to be opening up more of the Outer Continental Shelf to energy exploration.
But there is another way of interpreting Obama's words. Maybe by "tough choices" he meant deciding not to open up the OCS for more energy exploration. That's exactly what his interior secretary Ken Salazar has been doing for the past year.
Now Rep. Doc Hastings, R-WA, the ranking GOPer on the House Natural Resources Committee, points to the Obama 2011 budget projection for the federal government's revenues from OCS rents and bonuses. The latter are paid when a company obtains a new lease, while the former are paid as a firm holds a lease from the government for exploration of a given area of the OCS.
Table 15-2 of the budget document projects OCS income dropping from $1.5 billion in 2009, to $413 million in 2015.
Hastings is not pleased, observing that:
“In the summer of 2008 when gas prices were skyrocketing, the public demanded that both Congress and the President lift the decades-long ban on offshore drilling. Although there are now 500 million more acres available for offshore energy production, this Administration has deliberately decided to do even less than when the ban was in place," he said.
"In fact, just days after taking office, this Administration went against the will of the people and reinstituted a defacto moratorium on offshore energy production by delaying the development of a new five-year OCS plan. As this budget shows, the decision not to develop our nation’s energy resources will cost millions of dollars in lost revenue and prevent the creation of a million new jobs throughout the country.”