EnergyCurrent.com, July 30, 2008
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne has started the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program for the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The action could give the next administration a head start in expanding energy production from federal offshore jurisdictions, including some areas where a congressional moratorium has restricted oil and gas development.
Reacting to current energy prices and president George W. Bush’s lifting of the presidential ban on offshore drilling, Secretary Kempthorne has directed the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) to begin the initial steps for developing a new five year program. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five year program should consider.
MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments, particularly on issues unique to each state.
The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 Outer Continental Shelf planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action. If approved the new program would begin in 2010 and end in 2015.
Kempthorne said, “Today a barrel of oil costs more than $120, almost double the price a year ago. Clearly, today’s escalating energy prices and the widening gap between U.S. energy consumption and supply have changed the fundamental assumptions on which many of our decisions were based.”
“The American people and the President want action and this initiative can accelerate an offshore exploration and development program that can increase production from additional domestic energy resources.”
“This initiative could provide a significant advantage for the incoming administration, offering options it would not otherwise have had until at least 2010,” Kempthorne added.
“Today’s action would provide a two year head start for the next administration on developing a new five-year program.”
The Outer Continental Shelf currently provides 27% of U.S. domestic oil production and 15% of domestic natural gas production, the majority of this from the Gulf of Mexico. MMS believes that the areas under a congressional ban contain an additional 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 Tcf of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.
MMS considers the numbers conservative estimates because little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past 25 years because of the congressional ban. The estimates could increase with new technology and exploration techniques.