By Sen. John Barrasso
When President Obama said that America hopes to be Brazil’s best energy customer, Americans shook their head in confusion.
Apparently, the White House didn’t understand or care about their concern.
The administration repeated the exact same mistake this week when it irresponsibly released 30 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
On Thursday, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu explained that this SPR release was “intended to complement the production increases recently announced by a number of major oil producing countries. “ He went on to say that “the United States welcomes those commitments and encourages other countries to follow suit.”
With all due respect, when will America step up and follow suit?
Instead of needlessly tapping into our emergency oil supplies and encouraging other countries to produce more energy, this administration needs to take a hard look in the mirror.
The president has handcuffed American energy developers and made our dependence on foreign energy worse.
First, our Strategic Reserve was created as a safeguard against national security emergencies and severe supply disruptions. President Obama just treated the SPR like it’s his Strategic Political Reserve. While all Americans want gas prices to be lower, tapping the SPR isn’t the answer. The only severe supply disruption today is this administration’s self-imposed shutdown of American energy.
The White House’s claim that the unrest in Libya is the main motivation for their decision doesn’t make sense. After all, Libya ranks 18th in oil production – it’s not exactly Saudi Arabia. While the conflict in Libya has reduced supply into the market, it hasn’t been a “severe” disruption. Rather than tapping the SPR, this highlights the need to develop American energy and stop blocking energy from Canada.
Less than a year ago, this administration said that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has sufficient spare capacity to make up for any loss in American oil production resulting from its new rules that discourage American energy production.
While the president gives occasional speeches about his commitment to all of the above American energy production, he has built a record of opposing it time and time again.
The president has blocked offshore oil and gas production and made it more difficult to produce energy onshore.
After the explosion in the Gulf over a year ago, the administration shut down permitting for nearly a year. While the administration finally began issuing offshore permits again, it’s at a much slower rate. The results are troubling. Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is estimated to drop 20 percent in 2012 from 2010 levels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refuses to issue permits for offshore energy exploration in Alaska. This alone could provide an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil. Companies have invested billions of dollars and spent more than 5 years trying to develop these American energy resources. I have cosponsored legislation to fix the EPA’s flawed process for issuing offshore permits.
The administration has aggressively opposed exploration for oil and natural gas on federal lands in the West. In 2009, one of the administration’s first energy-related actions was to cancel 77 existing oil and gas leases in Utah. It has built on its anti-energy stance by throwing up additional regulatory hurdles to onshore production.
The White House has also stifled energy innovation in America – specifically on oil shale development. According to conservative estimates, the U.S. has 800 billion recoverable barrels of oil from oil shale in portions of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. The administration undercut this valuable resource by pulling back the commercial leasing rules that are crucial for this valuable resource coming to market.
I recently introduced the American Energy and Western Jobs Act. It cuts through the additional layers of red-tape on oil and gas exploration and finalizes the commercial leasing rules for oil shale. The bill will provide companies the opportunity and certainty they need to produce American energy on federal lands.
Each day, we witness more examples of how this administration is making our energy problems worse.
Instead of championing foreign oil and using our emergency supplies, the White House needs to take steps to support American energy development.
Republican John Barrasso represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. He serves in the Senates as a member of both the Energy and Environment Committees.