Number of New Oil Wells and New Leases Have Decreased Under Obama, Data from BLM Show

By Christopher Goins and Michael W. Chapman | April 5, 2012 | 4:04pm EDT

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

( – Since President Obama took office, both the number of new drilling operations started on federal lands and the number of new leases for oil operations on federal lands has decreased, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data show.

In fiscal year 2008, the last official year of the President George W. Bush’s administration, 5,044 new oil wells were started, meaning that actual drilling began, which is what oil firms refer to as “spudding in” or to “spud” a well bore.  In FY 2009, however, in Obama’s first year as president, there were 3,267 wells spudded, a decline of 1,777.

Fiscal year 2008 was from October 2007 through September 2008; fiscal year 2009 was from October 2008 through September 2009. President Bush’s last year in office ended on Jan. 20, 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated.

In addition, the Obama administration spudded 3,166 new wells in fiscal year 2010 and 3,260 in FY 2011, according to the Bureau of Land Management. That’s still less than the number of wells spudded, per year, under Bush in 2008, as well as the number in 2007 – 5,343 wells – and in 2006 – 4,708 wells.

The number of new oil drilling leases also declined under Obama, according to the Bureau of Land Management.  In FY 2008, there were 2,416 leases issued for operations on federal lands.

In FY 2009, however, the number of new leases issued fell to 2,072, according to the Bureau of Land Management. In FY 2010, the number was lower still at 1,308; and in FY 2011, the number was 2,188.  In every year of the Obama administration, the number of new leases issued was lower than in Bush’s last year.

The date from the Bureau of Land Management on new oil wells and new leases on federal lands is presented below.

Number of Well Bores Started (Spud) During the Fiscal Year on Federal Lands

2001        3,448

2002        2,871

2003        2,957

2004        2,702

2005        1,742

2006        4,708

2007        5,343

2008        5,044

Total for last 3 years: 15,095


2009        3,267

2010        3,166

2011        3,260

Total of 3 years: 9,693


Number of New Leases Issued During the Fiscal Year*

2001        3,289

2002        2,384

2003        2,022

2004        2,699

2005        3,514

2006        4,014

2007        3,499

2008        2,416

Total for last 3 years: 9,929


2009        2,072

2010        1,308

2011        2,188

Total of 3 years: 5,568


The data show major declines in the number of new oil wells spudded and new leases issued under Obama compared to Bush. It is possible that, if Obama wins a second term, the number of new wells and leases issued could dramatically increase and perhaps surpass the numbers of the total Bush years but the current data are what is available for analysis and comparison.

In this March 2, 2012 photo, Al Milani of Staten Island, pumps gas in Manhattan at a BP mini-mart. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

In looking at the numbers available, Willis Bush, a policy scholar at the American Petroleum Institute (API), said, “Several factors contribute to these numbers, but it’s hard to say precisely how much each one does.  The economy certainly can’t be ignored, but neither can administration policy.”

Bush explained that a weak economy can certainly reduce companies’ incentives to drill and reduce the demand for petroleum products, adding that because long-term projects take years to start-up after leases are issued, the short-term economic effects of a bad economy “may not alter long-range plans much.”

“Despite paying lip service to the need for more oil and natural gas development, a series of policy decisions by the administration has frustrated it, at least on federal lands and in federally controlled offshore areas,” Bush said.

The API details in a recent paper a number of administrative decisions that cast doubt on President Obama’s claim that his administration has been pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.

The institute calls the “picture” of administrative decisions “mostly discouraging.”

Some of those policy decisions include: API report.pdf

- The Obama administration proposing billions in new taxes on the oil and gas industry in the FY 2010, FY 2011, FY 2012, and FY 2013 budget proposals.

- Canceling leases on 77 parcels on Utah land in February 2009.

- Adding another six months to the comment period and therefore delaying the new offshore leasing plan in February 2009.

- Suspending the sale of 31 previously purchased drilling tracts in Utah, after a protest by environmentalists in 2010.

- Canceling the remaining lease sales in Alaska in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas offshore. The administration also withdrew Bristol Bay from the program in March of 2010.

- Canceling the Virginia offshore lease sales in May of 2010, despite their being bipartisan support.

- Raising the minimum bid amount for offshore lease blocks in 400 meter-deep water and greater from $37.50 per acre to $100 per acre in December of 2011.

- Recommending removing over 1.8 million acres of oil shale and tar sands energy resources from leasing availability, particularly in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming in February of 2012.  API report.pdf


*(This table contains the total number of new leases, by state, issued by the BLM during each fiscal year. Leases issued over the course of a fiscal year may or may not be leases sold during that same year. For example, a lease might have been sold but not issued pending protest resolution. Following successful resolution, that lease would have been issued, but this process may not have concluded in the same fiscal year. This figure includes parcels sold at a competitive lease sale, as well as leases issued non-competitively.)

CNSNews Reader,

The media are hard at work weaving a web of confusion, misinformation, and conspiracy surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNSNews covers the stories that the liberal media are afraid to touch. It drives the national debate through real, honest journalism—not by misrepresenting or ignoring the facts.

CNSNews has emerged as the conservative media’s lynchpin for original reporting, investigative reporting, and breaking news. We are part of the only organization purely dedicated to this critical mission and we need your help to fuel this fight.

Donate today to help CNSNews continue to report on topics that the liberal media refuse to touch. $25 a month goes a long way in the fight for a free and fair media.

And now, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you can make up to a $300 gift to the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of your choice and use it as a tax deduction on your 2020 taxes, even if you take the standard deduction on your returns.

— The CNSNews Team



Sign up for our CNSNews Daily Newsletter to receive the latest news.