Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) stood with Congressional leaders outside the Capitol today to announce new legislation that could dramatically increase the amount of oil produced in the United States. This measure will compel oil companies to utilize the 68 million acres that the federal government leased to them for oil and natural gas production, but that they are failing to use. Companies could nearly double U.S. oil production from public lands and cut oil imports by one-third if they started drilling and stopped stockpiling leases.
"Big oil and its allies have been yelling about drilling in pristine wilderness, and all the while, they've been sitting on millions of acres of untapped land that they already have permits to drill," Congressman Yarmuth said today. "The American people work too hard to tolerate the games big oil plays to keep gas prices high. We will force the oil companies to produce on the federal lands they already have or forfeit it to another company that will."
Currently, oil companies are not producing oil or gas on the nearly 68 million acres of federal land already under their control. Offshore, big oil is producing on only about 20 percent of the acres they hold, while onshore, companies are producing on less than 30 percent of the acres they hold. These unused areas could produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, nearly double current domestic oil production.
The total acreage that is currently laying dormant under the control of the oil companies is more than three times the size of the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Only about eight percent of ANWR is being considered for drilling.
The legislation would assess a fee on the land energy companies have leased but are not using for production. This fee will escalate if leases go unused over the course of several years. Revenue raised from these fees will go toward renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, as well as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
"The United States has leased millions of acres to big oil for drilling, but they're just sitting on it," Yarmuth added. "I'm sure their shareholders are happy that it's driving up the price of their stock, but it's driving up the price American families are paying at the pump as well. It's time they made a decision on the land: use it or lose it. It's that simple."