As the United States, and the world, enters a long era of increased energy demand we need more than just onshore shale oil and natural gas to meet our energy needs. We will need to make the best possible use of all our resources, including an increased program of offshore leasing that will lead to greater economic strength. President Trump's recent executive order designed to open more offshore areas to oil and natural gas exploration and production is a great first step.
Oil and natural gas producers can recover enough resources to serve energy needs both in the United States and abroad. In fact, the U.S. is now the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas even as carbon dioxide emissions are at 20-year lowsthanks to increased production of natural gas for electricity generation.
However, environmental activists, with their long history of indifference to basic energy needs, now threaten once again to curtail arbitrarily America's production of oil and gas by misinterpreting the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. They convinced former President Obama to block, in the final weeks of his term in office, access to resources in certain areas off the coast of Alaska as well as in some Atlantic coast areas.
These activists continue to generate public controversies over offshore drilling that have resulted in highly exaggerated and scientifically unfounded fears of safety and environmental harm, even though it often appears the environmental groups leading the charge are simply using emotional arguments as a device to block fossil fuel production. Among other things, activists have fostered the notion that nothing has changed since the Deepwater Horizon accident and gulf oil spill seven years ago – a charge that is patently false.
Since the accident, the oil and gas industry, in cooperation with the government, has worked hard to enhance an already strong safety culture. For example, oil and gas companies established the Center for Offshore Safety, which works with the regulatory community to make sure that the latest advances in safety technologies and practices are shared throughout the industry. New oil-spill containment and gathering systems stand ready to deploy at a moment's notice in the event of a future accident, and coordination between public and private entities has been greatly improved.
Meanwhile, existing standards and regulations have been upgraded and new ones developed, with a focus on spill prevention, containment and response. Innovative new technologies have been introduced to make offshore exploration and production more efficient and safer than ever before. Data analytics used in exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico now enables some tasks to be done in a day rather than weeks. When innovative practices are developed, oil and gas service companies deploy them widely and quickly.
The use of advanced technologies has helped the oil industry boost U.S. oil production by 70 percent. But President Barack Obama's ban on offshore leasing in the Arctic and Atlantic poses an energy security risk to the nation and to the world. International oil companies, the U.S. government and the International Energy Agency forecast that world oil demand will rise from 93 million barrels per day in 2016 to as much as 114 million barrels per day between 2030 and 2040.
America is a global energy leader, with the safest processes and technologies in the world. Failing to make available oil and gas resources for development is detrimental not only to energy production but also for the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose jobs are tied to the industry.
Oil and gas leasing and development should be increased on the nation's outer continental shelf – from the Arctic to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico — while maintaining the highest safety and environmental standards. It would provide huge benefits for job creation, domestic investment, revenue to the government, and global energy security. And the benefits would all begin years before the first barrel of oil goes to market.
Randall Luthi is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.
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