A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Services (CRS) has backed up Republican lawmakers' claims that all of the increase in oil and natural gas production that occurred during the past five years has been on state and private -- rather than federal -- lands. For the most part, state and private lands are where the shale action is.
While domestic oil production is at its highest level in two decades, evidence suggests that this increase is largely the result of production on state and private lands, where the federal government has little or no role, said the CRS report, "U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production in Federal and Non-Federal Areas."
Similarly, it said gas production on federal lands (onshore and offshore) fell by about 33% since 2007 and production on non-federal lands grew by 40%. This is because the big shale plays are primarily located on non-federal lands and are attracting a significant portion of investment for natural gas development.
Annual sales of natural gas produced from U.S. federal lands fell steadily between 2003 and 2011, according to data from the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and NGI's Shale Daily calculations. Nearly 6.8 Tcf came out of federal acreage in 2003; by 2011 that number had fallen to just over 4.6 Tcf.
Crude oil and lease condensate numbers over the same period have been more erratic, declining from 680 million bbls in 2003 to as low as 566 million bbls in 2008. In 2010, crude oil and lease condensate from federal lands spiked to a high of 726 million bbls. But that number declined again in 2011 to 626 million bbls -- 54 million bbls (8%) less than in 2003.
President Obama often boasts that overall energy production has increased under his administration, but the CRS report supports the argument that the energy boom is occurring in spite of the president's policies, not because of them.
"Private-sector investment and new technologies are driving increases in oil and gas production. Where the states have been in charge, we have seen energy development boom in a safe and responsible way, but under federal control we have seen a sharp decline in production. A web of red tape and a backlog of delayed permits are blocking important energy production opportunities on federal lands," said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY).
The average time to process an application for permits to drill on federal land increased 41% from 2008 to 2011, from 216 days in 2006 to 307 days in 2011, according to the CRS report.