Industry Groups Dispute Obama’s Claim to Pursue ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Policy

Matt Cover | May 31, 2012 | 5:47pm EDT
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President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Maljamar, N.M., Wednesday, March, 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – Energy industry groups pushed back Thursday against the notion that President Obama is pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, accusing the administration of playing favorites and picking “winners and losers,” thereby denying America energy independence.

One industry representative said that if the government allowed the industry to fully develop the country’s resources, the U.S. could “surpass Russia and China as the world’s largest producer of crude oil.”

The claims came during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing examining whether Obama is living up to his promise to pursue all domestic energy options.

“The question for this committee: Is that goal being achieved, and if not, why not?” committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in his opening remarks.

Issa pointed to some estimates that have found the United States has the potential to produce trillions of barrels of oil, if the government chose to do so.

“President Obama frequently states that the U.S. only has two percent of the world’s oil reserves, but ignores our potential to produce trillions of barrels,” he said. “According to the Institute for Energy Research we have enough supply to meet demand for 200 years.”

Democrats sought to defend the president’s record, stressing that oil and gas production were at record levels under Obama.

“The record is clear. President Obama has pursued an aggressive strategy to significantly boost domestic production from all sources,” said the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

But energy industry representatives and state energy officials strongly disputed this, describing Obama’s policy as an “only-the-above” strategy.

“What I see is a federal government that seems to be attempting to pick winners and losers,” said Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection, Michael Krancer. “[T]he all-of-the-above moniker, if you will, really means only-the-above – meaning only wind, only solar, only those things.”

Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president for public and government affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, said oil and gas regulations prevent companies from using leases they have bought to drill on federal lands.

“Western Energy Alliance estimates conservatively that BLM’s [Bureau of Land Management] planned regulations will add about 100 days to permitting times,” she told the panel. “With federal permitting times of 298 days, while states can process their corresponding permits in about thirty days, it’s difficult to understand why the federal government is trying to usurp control from the states which have proved themselves more effective and efficient.”

Sgamma noted that the increase in federal production had occurred on private and state-owned lands, not in areas controlled by the federal government, belying claims that production is up because of Obama’s policies.

“One thing that particularly rings hollow with western producers is the administration taking credit for increased production of oil and natural gas,” she said. “The dramatic success of my industry increasing production and significantly decreasing foreign imports is the story of private sector investment on mainly private lands.

“Despite all the obstacles put in place by this administration, oil and gas companies, responding to market forces and the demands of a nation for energy, jobs, and economic growth, have dramatically increased production and reduced foreign imports.”

Sgamma added that “5.5 times more oil is produced on private and state lands than on federal lands.”

A roadcut on a highway in Utah exposes the Green River Formation, believed to contain the largest deposits of oil shale in the world. (Photo: Kurt Allen Fisher/NASA Earth Sciences Division)

‘Energy giant’


American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers president Charles Drevna said the U.S. could become energy independent by 2025 without spending any government funds, if only it allowed the energy industry to fully develop the country’s resources.

“The U.S. is an energy giant that has the potential to become energy secure by 2025 without spending any taxpayer dollars,” he said. “By implementing policies that allow the U.S. oil and gas industry to explore and develop its domestic resources, the U.S. has the capacity to surpass Russia and China as the world’s largest producer of crude oil.”

This is not the first time Congress has been informed of America’s potential for energy production. At a May 10 hearing of the House Science and Technology’s subcommittee on energy and environment Government Accountability Office official Anu Mittal testified that America could hold more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia.

“The Green River Formation – an assemblage of over 1,000 feet of sedimentary rocks that lie beneath parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming contains the world's largest deposits of oil shale,” Mittal told the committee.

“USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions.”

Oil shale is a type of rock formation made up of compressed oil. To recover the oil, the rock must be melted down and chemically treated. There is considerable uncertainty that oil can be recovered economically, however, as current technologies for doing so are very expensive.

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