A question of importance for all Americans was directed to President Obama by upstate New York voter Philip Tricolla during the second presidential debate on Oct. 16, 2012: “Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not the policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the energy department?”
Obama responded: “The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”
That was true when Obama said it and, according to an Aug. 12, 2013, report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, it remains true. Oil, natural gas and coal production in this country are at record levels. But this is despite Obama’s policies, not, as he implied, because of them. Oil, natural gas and coal production are zooming upwards on private land, but plummeting on government lands.
Fossil fuel production on private lands has increased by 27 percent since 2003, according to the EIA. But on government lands, fossil fuel production is down 15 percent since 2003, including a 4 percent drop in 2011 alone. It is Obama’s policies that are directly causing these drops in public land energy production. Immediately after taking office in 2009, Obama canceled 77 leases for oil and gas drilling in Utah. Then in January 2010, Obama issued new regulations further restricting energy development on all federal lands.
After the BP oil spill in April 2010, Obama instituted not one but two comprehensive drilling bans in the Gulf of Mexico, the first of which was declared illegal by a federal judge. After lifting his second ban, Obama refused to issue permits for any new drilling in the Gulf, which EIA estimated cut domestic offshore oil production by 13 percent that year alone.
Obama has leased less than half as many offshore acres as President Clinton did at the same point in his tenure. And Obama is blocking access to 19 billion barrels of oil in the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, another 10 billion barrels estimated in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast, and another 10 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
Even so, the United States is undergoing an energy revolution, making the U.S. dramatically less dependent on oil from hostile foreign nations. Increased natural gas production is making manufacturing here competitive again due to lower production costs, which in turn fuels a manufacturing employment expansion the country has not seen in decades. It’s the fruit of Americans working together voluntarily in the private sector. Think what they could do if Obama and the bureaucrats would get out of the way.