Sen. Jeff Bingaman lays out in detail exactly why and how the recent push to increase domestic oil production leases is a scam:
As you can see below, the oil and gas companies are sitting on roughly 64 million acres of production leases that they are not yet exploring or drilling:
Here is a pie chart that shows all the leased acreage on Federal land for oil and gas development, onshore in the lower 48 States. As you can see, about three-quarters of all the Federal land we have leased onshore is not currently being produced. Of the over 45.5 million acres of land that has been leased, oil companies are sitting on 31 million acres, on which no production is occurring.
A similar story can be told in terms of the Outer Continental Shelf. Of a total of 41 million acres leased, 33 million acres are not producing.
The Republican Leaderís amendment proposes to open up the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts to leasing and development. Although the amendment speaks to petitions from Governors to lease in specific areas, the way the amendment is written, the Secretary can open for leasing even areas where no such request is pending, by including them in the next so-called 5-Year Plan from the Minerals Management Service.
But here is a map of all the leases in the OCS in the Gulf of Mexico. The blue squares represent areas that have producing leases. The much more numerous yellow squares represent leased blocks where nothing is happening. And the red blocks represent new areas that have been added through recent lease sales. For all of the increases in drilling activity that I have mentioned earlier in my remarks, you can see that we still have a lot of areas where no exploration or production is going on, even though they have been leased. And we have recently added even more leased areas.
Here is a second map, of oil and gas producing regions in Alaska. In the middle here is the private and State land. This small area to the right is the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Republican Leaderís amendment would open to leasing. This large area on the left, though, is the National Petroleum Reserve Ė Alaska. It was specifically set aside to be exploited for oil and gas development. The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska totals 23.5 million acres, most of which can be developed and drilled. The mean estimate of oil resources in the National Petroleum Reserve is 9.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. That is significantly more oil than that estimated to be contained in the federal portion of the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. To date, 3.8 million acres of the NPRA have been leased. Thatís twice the size of the portion of the Arctic Refuge that is being talked about in the Republican Leaderís Amendment.
Here is a slightly more detailed version of the chart, which shows where those leased acres are. You can see that a large portion of the leased area is on the eastern side of the Petroleum Reserve, very close to the Alpine field, which is tied into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. So the infrastructure to take oil from the Petroleum Reserve to the lower 48 is very close at hand.
With all of those favorable factors in place, you might wonder how many production wells are operating on the 3.8 million acres of the Petroleum Reserve that have been leased. The answer Ė zero.
Zero current production from these leases should be a substantial cause for concern. It illustrates a more basic problem with our domestic production of oil and gas. Itís not that we havenít leased Federal land for exploration and production. We have leased large areas of federal land, and we are leasing more all the time. Oil and gas companies certainly benefit from having the leases on their books and claiming the potential oil as part of their reserves. But we need to get these oil and gas resources out of the reserves column and into the production column.
What does the Republican Leaderís amendment do about any of this? Absolutely nothing. He is calling for more lease sales, in areas that are much more remote from oil and gas transportation infrastructure than the acreage we have already leased. It would take a decade or more for those resources to come into production, at the very best. And why would we expect oil and gas companies to rush these new areas into production, when they are sitting on literally millions and millions of acres of existing leases without carrying out any production on them?
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