If Utahns are increasingly deaf to the Obama administration's assurances about domestic energy production, the reason is perhaps best summed up by the following adage: "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."
A case in point is the President's repeated pronouncements during his campaign that he was in favor of an "all of the above" energy strategy that included oil and gas exploration on American soil. Unfortunately, members of his administration apparently didn't hear him or failed to get the memo.
This past week, the federal Bureau of Land Management announced it would be limiting research, demonstration and, most important, commercial production of oil shale and tar sands in Utah and other western states. The decision effectively restricts commercial leasing for those purposes to 1,250 square miles of public land, roughly 200 square miles of which are here in Utah. That is roughly a third of the range lands proposed by the Bush administration.
In other words, the President's assertions to the contrary, this administration's suppression of domestic energy continues. Sure, White House officials claim that domestic oil production is at its highest point in years. What they fail to mention is that almost all of the increased production is on private land and is the result of policies put in place by the previous administration.
Energy production on federal land tells a different story. Federal leasing revenues over the past three fiscal years have dropped 44 percent, from $356 million in 2008 to $201 million in 2011, and revenue from federal onshore oil and natural gas resources has fallen from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion, according to the Western Energy Alliance. This White House's misguided policies are literally costing America hundreds of thousands of jobs. They are also costing federal and state governments billions of dollars in lost revenues they would otherwise collect from royalties derived from energy production on public lands.
A recent Wood Mackenzie study, for example, indicated that allowing more energy production over the next two decades would create 1.4 million new jobs -- 40,000 in Utah -- and bring an additional $800 billion to state and federal government coffers. That is critically important in the best of times, but especially now during a time of high unemployment and when our national debt exceeds $16 trillion.
As important as they are, jobs and more government revenue are not the only benefits of allowing more domestic energy production. Opening access to our public lands would ensure more U.S. dollars stay in our economy instead of being shipped overseas to other countries wise enough to development their own energy resources. It also would result in a more independent and secure America -- one that is energy self-sufficient and no longer has to rely on oil from other nations, some of which are not our friends and have subsidized terrorists.
Energy producers I meet with across Utah are beyond frustrated with this administration on this issue. They want the President to show some leadership -- to put the "all" in his "all of the above" approach to domestic energy. And they are tired of listening to idle talk and hollow promises on energy policy and balancing our nation's budget. A less restrictive federal energy policy would help the President deliver on both.
In short, Utahns and other Americans want the White House's rhetoric to be accompanied by action. They expect deeds, not more words.