Top Five Actions Your Federal Government Can Take to Lower Energy Prices Oil

Posted May 13, 2008 | folder icon Print this page

Congress Must Face the Law of Supply and Demand. Oil, gasoline, fuel oil, and heating oil and diesel fuel commodities traded in the world market and, therefore, their prices reflect the fundamentals economic principals of supply and demand. While much has been done to reduce demand for energy (CAFE, energy efficiency requirements in buildings, etc.) and US energy intensity has declined significantly, Congress has failed to increase domestic supplies of petroleum resources in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and has refused to provide authority to the Department of Interior to issue leases for the development of unconventional sources such as shale oil. In fact, it has restricted access to known supplies of domestic petroleum resources.

The Top Five Steps Your Federal Government Can Take to Increase Supplies and Lower Prices:

  1. Lift the Presidential and Congressional moratoria on deepwater outer-continental shelf (OCS) energy exploration and production. The US is the only developed country in the world that restricts access to its offshore resources. Currently, 97% of America’s 2 billion acres of OCS are not being used for their energy potential. The U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimates that the outer continental shelf contains nearly 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. (The U.S. consumes roughly 7.5 billion barrels of oil and 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually)  The MMS estimates are conservative due to the fact that “true knowledge of the actual volume of oil and natural gas resources can only come through the drilling of wells,” and in many places in the US, exploratory wells have not been allowed to be drilled. Simply put, the government does not know exactly how much energy lies beneath the OCS because it has been illegal to look.According to MMS, it has been more than twenty years since any exploration activity has been conducted on the Alaska and Atlantic OCS, and “no meaningful” exploration offshore Central and Northern California, offshore Oregon and Washington and the South Florida Basin, has been conducted since the 1960’s.

  2. Repeal the Congressional prohibition precluding the production of oil shale leases on taxpayer-owned federal lands.As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress directed the U.S. Secretary of Interior to develop a program to enable the production of America’s oil shale resources – the largest oil supply in the world – for American consumers.The United States has 2 trillion barrels of oil shale. This is more than 7 the amount of crude oil reserves found in Saudi Arabia, and is enough to meet current U.S. demand for over 250 years. According to the U.S Department of Energy (DOE):

    “Once developed, U.S. oil shale resources will be similar in extent and energy potential to Alberta’s tar sand reserves. When oil shale and tar sands are considered together, the United States and Canada will be able to claim the largest oil reserves in the world.”
    However, in 2007, Congress adopted a rider that prohibited the Department of Interior from completing the task it was assigned in 2005. Consequently, the United States is still without a program to bring this massive resource to market for American consumers.
  3. Open the “1002 Area” of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and natural gas development. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter and the Congress set aside 1.5 million of ANWR’s 19 million acres for potential oil development, subject to Congressional approval. This area is often called the “1002 Area” because it was set aside in Section 1002 of the law. It is located on Alaska’s Northern Coastal Plain. According to U.S. government estimates, the mean estimate of the oil beneath ANWR’s northern coastal plain is 10.4 billion barrels, or, nearly half of the total proven reserves of the entire United States. At peak production, ANWR could produce approximately 1 million barrels of oil per day, which is roughly equal to the amount the entire state of Texas produces each day, and about as much as we currently import from Nigeria. Moreover, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently estimated that ANWR energy production would generate about $180 billion in federal tax and royalty revenue.If approved by Congress, ANWR would be the single largest producing oil field in America and the entire Northern Hemisphere.
  4. Appoint the U.S. Commission on North American Energy Freedom as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Sections 1421-1424). As part of the federal government’s national energy policy, Congress established the 16-member Commission on North American Energy Security, and directed the President to appoint representatives from the United States. The President has failed to do so. North America’s energy resource base is enormous. It includes the world’s largest oil shale deposits, the world’s largest coal deposits, and the world’s largest oil sands reserves. Combined, these resources are sufficient to power North America for centuries, giving us plenty of time to transition to new energy sources as they become affordable. Meanwhile, all of North America would benefit from more indigenous energy production. A coordinated effort between the United States, Canada and Mexico – as envisioned by the law – would facilitate the development of a comprehensive North American energy policy that seeks to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2025 within the three contiguous North American nation areas of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

  5. Repeal Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which prohibits federal contracting for “nonconventional” sources of petroleum. Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 prohibited U.S. federal agencies from contracting to procure non-conventional or alternative fuels that may emit higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than ‘conventional petroleum sources.’ Investment in non-conventional fuels will play a critical role in reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy. Advanced fuel technologies, including coal-to-liquids, natural gas-to-liquids, fuel from oil shale, an fuel from Canadian tar sands are specifically targeted by Section 526. Strategically, Section 526 was especially unwise, given America’s massive coal and oil shale resources, and the fact that Canada is America’s largest supplier of imported oil. Arbitrarily preventing the U.S. Government from procuring advanced non-conventional fuels could have negative impacts on the military, and therefore, our security. In the event of a national emergency, the U.S. military could be forced to obtain a greater percentage of petroleum from unstable regions of the world.
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