Politicians Vie for Credit Over Domestic Energy Boom

Everybody loves natural gas — especially in Washington, where both parties are positioning themselves to take credit for the domestic energy boom.

Natural Gas
Richard du Toit | Gallo Images | Getty Images
Natural Gas

At the White House, Obama administration officials tout the fact that US natural gas production grew by more than 7 percent in 2011, and point to the Department of Interior, where leadership has announced the proposed 2012-2017 “Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.”

That effort, the White House says, makes more than 75 percent of estimated “undiscovered technically recoverable” oil and gas resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf available for exploration and development.

And they point to Interior’s holding an oil and natural gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico in December, the first since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That sale, the White House says, attracted $338 million in total bids — which officials say was about $100 million more than the average for Western Gulf sales over the previous decade.

But House Republicans say that’s not good enough — and in any case, they give much of the credit for the natural gas boom to Presidents Clinton and Bush, instead of Obama. And they worry that potential future regulations on hydraulic fracturing could “add significant red tape and delays” to the shale gas industry.

“Increases in onshore or offshore oil and natural gas production can be attributed to previous Presidents Clinton and Bush’s pro-energy policies and the significant increase in energy production on state and private lands,” said House Natural Resources Committee spokesman Spencer Pederson in an email.

He also pointed out that total onshore acreage leased under the Obama Administration in 2009 and 2010 “is the lowest in over two decades, stretching back to at least 1984.” He added, under the Obama Administration, 2010 had the “lowest number of onshore leases issued since 1984.”

Follow Eamon Javers on Twitter: @EamonJavers