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The Denver Post - Is the Obama Administration's Energy Policy Credible? No

Op-Ed

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By Representatives Doug Lamborn and Cory Gardner

A recent ABC News poll shows two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling gasoline prices. As part of a public relations campaign to deflect blame, he recently told Denver's CBS 4 that oil production in the U.S. is higher than it has been in about eight years. In an oft-repeated line, the president claims that America consumes 20 percent of the world's oil, yet has only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves.

The administration is trying to substitute political spin for a credible energy policy. While it is true that energy production is up by 14 percent in 2011 on private and state lands, President Obama cannot take credit for that.

Today's increased onshore oil and natural gas production comes from private-sector investment in advanced technologies and entrepreneurial efforts to develop new resources, such as the Bakken in Montana and North Dakota, and the Niobrara in Wyoming and Colorado. It's significant that they are on private lands and therefore not subject to bureaucratic obstacles resulting in costly regulatory delays.

What the president is responsible for is the decline in production taking place on federal lands.

The newest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the non-partisan data collection branch of the Department of Energy, shows total fossil fuel production (oil, natural gas and coal) dropped by 7 percent since President Obama took office and is down 13 percent since 2003. In 2011, total federal oil and natural gas production was down 14 percent and 11 percent respectively, from the previous year.

When President Obama talks about America only having 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, his spin is way off. According to the EIA, proven reserves "are a small subset of recoverable resources," because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields. It completely ignores the 12 billion barrels in the ANWR, for instance, as well as vast fields offshore that are currently off limits, not to even mention unconventional sources like oil shale.

This administration has repeatedly blocked new energy development, whether it's canceling lease sales in Utah, placing a moratorium on new offshore energy production, or removing over a million acres of land for oil shale development in Colorado. The latest five-year offshore lease plan includes no new acres compared to when he took office.

Incredibly, while publicly trying to take credit for the increased energy production on private lands, President Obama privately lobbied U.S. senators to vote against a bill to open up the Keystone Pipeline project. That project is estimated to bring 20,000 shovel-ready jobs to Americans and deliver about 800,000 barrels of oil per day to the U.S. each day.

Because an overwhelming majority of federal lands are in the West, reviving federal oil and natural gas production means new job creation here at home. According to the Western Energy Alliance, by 2020, an additional 70,000 jobs could be created in the Bakken and Niobrara if regulatory certainty were to exist. Western oil and natural gas production could displace what the U.S. imports on a daily basis from Russia, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria and Colombia combined.

With national unemployment still hovering above 8 percent, the president needs to understand why oil and natural gas production is growing on private and state land and declining on federal lands where he has the most control. The path to rebuilding our economy and our energy security goes through Western public lands and needs to be a cornerstone of any "all-of-the-above" energy proposal.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn chairs the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner sits on the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.


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