Obama’s Energy Policy Puts Half of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve Off Limits, CEO Says

August 14, 2012 - 4:13 PM

Ken Salazar

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, challenged President Barack Obama's “all of the above” domestic energy policy.

“Today, we’re sending a letter to the White House to urge the president and his agencies to do more than merely talk about ‘all-of-the-above’ while they pursue policies that include ‘none-of- the-below,’” Gerard said.

Gerard ticked off moves by the Obama administration that he said limit the development and production of domestic oil and natural gas resources, including the Department of the Interior’s proposed plan for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

“One half of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, it was announced just yesterday (Monday), has been taken off limits,” Gerard said. “This is an area by law dating back to the 1920s, was specifically set aside in Alaska for oil and natural gas development.

Interior Department

Interior Department (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“The announcement yesterday by Secretary (Ken) Salazar was essentially an announcement that we’re going to take everything that was legislatively set aside and we’re placing them off-limits,” Gerard said.

The NPR-A was created in 1923 by President Warren Harding as a resource for the U.S. Navy during a time when its fleets were converting from coal to oil power. In 1976, the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act put the 23.5 million acres under the control of the Department of the Interior. The 1980 Interior Department Appropriations Act directed Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to conduct oil and gas leasing on the land.

To date, only 3 million acres are leased, and the new proposal will open up less than 12 million more acres for oil and gas exploration and production – half of the North Slope area of Alaska originally set aside for that purpose.

“To harness the oil and gas potential of the NPR-A, we need a plan that will help the industry bring energy safely to market from this remote location, while also protecting wildlife and subsistence rights of Alaska Natives,” Salazar said in a press release announcing the plan.

“This proposal would allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we have done over the last three years as part of the Obama Administration’s focus on expanding safe and responsible oil and gas development, and builds on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure that’s needed to bring supplies online,” he said.

“This plan also strikes an important balance by recognizing the need to protect America’s treasures in the Arctic, from the raptors of the Colville River and the polar bears of the Beaufort Sea coast, to Teshekpuk Lake, Peard Bay, and some of the largest caribou herds on Earth,” Salazar said.

Gerard said the other roadblocks to domestic energy production that the Obama administration has put in place include:

-- 85 percent of offshore acreage designated as off limits

-- Federal lands in the West designated as off limits

-- A push for more regulation on the industry

-- Calls for more taxation of the oil and natural gas industry

“We need to see more than lip service from the administration about ending this stranglehold on economic growth and to recognize the enormous economic benefit of America’s oil and natural gas,” Gerard said.

According to a Harris Poll conducted for API, 71 percent of American voters favor increased access to U.S. oil and natural gas resources, 90 percent believe more oil and natural gas development could lead to more U.S. jobs, and 87 percent believe it could lower energy costs for consumers.

Strong majorities of voters support more domestic energy development, regardless of party affiliation," Gerard said. "And they don’t like what they’re seeing in Washington where development has been slowed or stopped despite millions of Americans still out of work. Nearly two out of three voters believe the nation is moving in the wrong direction on energy."

The telephone poll was conducted August 9 – 12 among 1,016 registered voters across the country, with a sampling error of +/-3.0 percent.