Middle East instability shows need for more domestic oil drilling

February 02, 2011

With all the instability in the Middle East, oil prices are headed above $100 a barrel. A spike to the $125-$150-a-barrel range could have disastrous effects on the U.S. economy.

Now is the time when we needed to work on U.S. energy security and independence. And carpeting vast expanses of American soil with solar panels and wind turbines that do nothing when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow is not the answer.

The Energy Information Administration said last month that 2011 offshore oil production would decline 13 percent over 2010 due to the effects of the offshore drilling moratorium and the snail's-pace permitting process. That's about 220,000 fewer barrels of oil per day.

The Heritage Foundation reports that new drilling permits are down 88 percent from their historical average. Even shallow-water permits, supposedly unaffected by the moratorium, are down11 percent.

That's just in the Gulf of Mexico. As Heritage notes, some 85 percent of our coastal waters remain off-limits to drilling. The administration has announced that the eastern Gulf and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be off-limits for the next seven years. The Interior Department has canceled four pending lease sales in Alaska.

Heritage's Robert Bluey says that allowing access to oil and natural gas resources currently off-limits would increase U.S. crude oil production by as much as 2 million barrels per day by 2030, offsetting more than one-fifth of our oil imports. According to the American Petroleum Institute, federal lands also hold an estimated 116.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, enough to produce gasoline for 65 million cars and fuel oil for 3.2 million households for 60 years.

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, reports that America may be sitting on the natural gas equivalent of more than 350 billion barrels of oil — approximately double the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined.

About 60 million U.S. households use natural gas. Locked up in these same federal lands are an estimated 650.9 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, enough to meet the natural-gas heating needs of these same 60 million households for 160 years.

Its time we go after the American oil and natural gas we have deliberately put off-limits. Watching the Middle East implode while we sit on our energy resources is an invitation to disaster!

Benedict Frederick Jr., Pasadena

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