Remember last October when President Obama incessantly blasted congressional Republicans for the government shutdown? Among the lengthy litany of evils he claimed would result from the shutdown were delays in issuing leasing permits for energy exploration and development on federal lands. But, as the Institute for Energy Research pointed out in a letter Wednesday to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., federal permit applications under this administration require 228 days to be processed on average. The 16-day shutdown delay pales by comparison to the chronically glacial pace maintained by the federal government under Obama.
“This ‘permatorium’ has led to a 15 percent drop in oil and natural gas production on federal lands since 2010. At the same time, natural gas and crude oil production on state and private lands have increased about 15 and 33 percent, respectively,” IER President Thomas Pyle told Ryan. Not coincidentally, the average processing time for a state permit in Texas is five days. As Gov. Rick Perry would say, there is a useful lesson for Obama in the contrast between how permit applications are processed in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.
The IER letter was addressed to the budget committee rather than one of the several House panels that deal with energy issues because Pyle's purpose was to highlight how officials can quickly generate trillions of dollars in new revenues for federal and state governments. Those revenues would be on top of the major boost to employment and overall economic growth that would result from immediately opening up more federal lands to energy exploration and development.
According to a study conducted last year for IER by Joseph R. Mason, a professor at Louisiana State University's business school, immediately opening federal lands would produce the following macroeconomic effects:
• 552,000 jobs annually over the next seven years
• Almost 2 million jobs annually over the next 30 years
• $32 billion increase in annual wages over the next seven years
• $115 billion annually for years seven to 30
• $3.7 trillion cumulative increase over 37 years
• $2.7 trillion increase in federal tax revenues over 37 years
• $1.1 trillion in state and local tax revenues over 37 years
• $24 billion annual federal tax revenue over the next seven years, $86 billion annually thereafter
• $10.3 billion annual state and local tax revenue over the next seven years, $35.5 billion annually thereafter
Such projections are always subject to interpretation and it is unreasonable to expect an immediate opening of the vast federal land holdings in Alaska and the western continental states. It would be a tragic mistake, however, to make "the ideal" the enemy of "the good" that could come from reasonably accelerating the permit-approval process, especially for drilling in areas considered highly likely to be productive for oil and natural gas resources. Obama has been describing his energy policy for years as an “all-of-the-above” approach. Opening federal lands to speedier energy access will undoubtedly upset Obama’s Big Green allies, but it’s just common sense for most Americans.