GOP counters Obama on drilling

Sens. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins MORE (La.) and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (Okla.) led the letter, which also includes signatures from some members of the GOP leadership team, including Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.).

“Arbitrary federal land restrictions now serve as a primary roadblock to domestic energy production,” they write.

Republicans said production increases in recent years stem from Bush-era decisions, development on private and state lands (in areas including the Bakken formation in North Dakota) and technology advances.

Here’s the new Senate letter:

January 25, 2012

The Honorable Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNew Hampshire Rep. Kuster endorses Buttigieg Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Ray LaHood backs Biden for president MORE


President of United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to convey our concern with the management of our nation’s abundant energy resources, particularly those located on federal lands and waters. 

There is a growing threat to consumers and our economy from the potential disruption in energy supplies stemming from the instability in the Middle East, particularly Iran. We believe the federal government should take commonsense steps here at home to safeguard Americans by removing the unnecessary obstacles placed in the way of energy development on lands and waters owned by taxpayers. Especially during a time of increasing volatility overseas and rising fuel prices, the single greatest impact the federal government can have on our nation’s energy security is to expand access to its vast energy resources — both traditional and alternative — available on federal lands and waters. While proven reserves have increased dramatically in recent years due to improvements in technology, energy production from federal resources has fallen. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States relies on foreign countries for almost half of our petroleum resources, with a significant portion of that coming from unstable regimes. Additional analysis shows our economy will rely on fossil fuels for nearly 70 percent of its energy needs through 2035. While these facts are not disputed, the course of action to address it often is. Seeking to develop alternative energy technologies is a necessary goal in the long-term, but it is not sufficient for our nation’s current and foreseeable needs. 

Fortunately, our country holds within its borders extensive traditional energy resources that could sustain our energy needs for decades to come. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the United States’ combined recoverable oil, natural gas, and coal resources is the largest in the world. However, much of this is restricted from exploration and production. Hundreds of thousands of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic activity may be foregone if current policies remain in place.

The 1.76 billion acre endowment of our Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is a good example. Of those 1.76 billion acres, only 38 million acres are actually leased to energy companies, meaning the federal government has provided access to a mere 2.16 percent of our total potential resources.  Yet, while the federal government has provided financing for other countries, such as Brazil, to develop offshore resources, it has consistently restricted companies from doing the same within U.S. waters.

Moreover, as a result of the 2010 moratorium and uncertainty about future permitting, 11 drilling rigs representing 14 projects have left the Gulf of Mexico since April 2010. These rigs have gone to countries such as Brazil, Egypt and Angola with some rigs later relocating to the North Sea — taking a cumulative $21.4 billion of associated lost U.S. capital and operating investment with them. In addition, the EIA projects that Gulf oil production will be down more than 12 percent in 2012 over 2010. 

In 2007, the EIA projected total 2010 U.S. oil production on federal lands to be 850 million barrels. Today’s actual production on federal lands is 714 million barrels, a 16 percent decline from what was projected. Arbitrary federal land restrictions now serve as a primary roadblock to domestic energy production. Federal land designations now exceed the total amount of developed lands in the United States. Wilderness areas, the most restrictive of land designations, total over 100 million acres. In many cases, wilderness areas are now used for purposes beyond their original intent on lands clearly unsuitable for the designation rather than maintaining the integrity of our most sensitive public lands. These restrictions, which are rich in resources, prevent the responsible development of natural resources. 

Information developed by the Western Energy Alliance shows an unfortunate regression in federal policy, specifically at the Department of Interior. Their analysis shows that the ratio of revenue returned per dollar spent by the federal government has fallen from $46.07 to $40.12 for onshore energy production, and an unprecedented falloff of $118.54 to $30.08 for offshore energy production over the last three years.

This is in sharp contrast to production occurring on non-federal lands. For example, since 2005 oil production in North Dakota has been growing at a rate of 26 percent a year. Thus it is increasingly clear our nation is reliant on foreign sources of oil, largely because we do not first access our own.  Utilizing our nation’s natural resources located on federal lands could create American jobs, produce American energy resources, reduce our foreign imports and trade deficit, keep more of our nation’s wealth at home, and protect our national security interests.  


Needless to say, reducing restrictions to access our federally managed lands would allow American industry the freedom to develop abundant traditional energy reserves. Additionally, it would provide a more realistic economic environment for emerging alternative energy technologies, allowing them to be developed according to true market conditions. This approach could weed out faltering technologies and spare taxpayers the risk of subsidizing wasteful projects, as we experienced with Solyndra. 

Finally, let us be clear in our disappointment in the recent decision to not approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, which is clearly in our national interest. Considering the potential for supply disruptions in the coming year, the federal government could well be facing price constraints that are a result of international conflicts, for example, in the Strait of Hormuz. It would be unfortunate if the only tool available to calm markets is further sales from our strategic reserves. Providing more access to both onshore and offshore resources and construction of a strategic pipeline from Canada are clear ways forward. We urge you to re-consider this decision and provide a clear path forward for increasing domestic production and transporting new energy supplies. 

David Vitter                                                    

Tom Coburn

Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Senators see off-ramp from Iran tensions after Trump remarks MORE

Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE

Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report Bottom Line DOJ inquiry tied to Clinton, touted by Trump winds down with no tangible results: report MORE

Richard Shelby

Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Apple, Barr clash over Pensacola shooter's phone | Senate bill would boost Huawei alternatives | DHS orders agencies to fix Microsoft vulnerability | Chrome to phase out tracking cookies Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Voting machine vendors to testify on election security MORE

Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Senators set for briefing on cyber threats from Iran MORE

Jim DeMint

Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE

John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate to vote on Trump's Canada, Mexico trade deal Thursday Senate braces for Trump impeachment trial Republicans face internal brawl over impeachment witnesses MORE


Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE

Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE

Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial Senate opens Trump impeachment trial Seven things to know about the Trump trial MORE

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE

Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Hillicon Valley: House panel unveils draft of privacy bill | Senate committee approves bill to sanction Russia | Dems ask HUD to review use of facial recognition | Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4M MORE

John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE


Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate MORE

Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Graham on impeachment trial: 'End this crap as quickly as possible' Ocasio-Cortez accuses Rand Paul of taking climate change comments out of context, compares GOP agenda to 'Spaceballs' plot MORE

John CornynJohn CornynKoch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Seven things to know about the Trump trial New Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight MORE

Kay Bailey Hutchison

Jon Kyl