Op-ed: Attacks on offshore energy threaten Texas economy
As the state’s leading employer organization, the Texas Association of Business is committed to improving the Texas business climate and making our state’s economy the strongest in the world.
Doing so, however, will require sensible policies and approaches to a variety of issues, including domestic energy development.
As Texans have witnessed firsthand in recent years, thanks to technological advances and access to abundant oil and natural gas resources across the nation, the U.S. energy revolution has generated tremendous benefits for the Lone Star State’s economy, budget, and consumer pocketbooks.
For offshore oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico, in particular, in addition to generating nearly 20 percent of the nation’s crude oil supply, the U.S. Interior Department found that in FY 2014 alone such activity sustained 651,000 jobs and over $64 billion in gross domestic product, including 193,000 jobs and over $20 billion in GDP for Texas. With 69 percent of the nation’s remaining oil estimated to lie on federal offshore and onshore lands, continued and expanded access to our offshore resources will be critical to safeguarding the long-term energy and economic security for Texas businesses and citizens alike.
Unfortunately, federal regulatory obstacles have helped to quell industry interest for now in areas like the Alaskan Arctic, a region that is estimated to contain over 23 billion barrels of undiscovered oil. Elsewhere, one study found that beyond adding about 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day to our energy supply, exploration and development in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico could support an additional 62,000 jobs and $5.3 billion in annual GDP for Texas. Unfortunately, a leasing moratorium set to expire in 2022 covers the vast majority of that region.
Most recently, anti-energy activists in March successfully secured the removal of the Mid- and South Atlantic from the nation’s next five-year offshore oil and natural gas leasing program for 2017-2022.
Now, many of these same anti-energy groups are determined to shut down development right here in our own backyard in the Gulf of Mexico, having recently taken to the streets of downtown Houston and far beyond to make their nonsensical case. In making such reckless and irresponsible demands, these groups conveniently do not explain how we will replace approximately 20 percent of our crude supply, nor do they recognize federal government forecasts that U.S. consumption of oil and natural gas in 2040 will be nearly identical to what we consumed in 2013.
They also refuse to acknowledge that as the United States leapfrogged Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas in 2014, we also achieved a greenhouse gas emission level that was 9 percent lower than it was in 2005. These extremists furthermore choose to ignore a nearly 80-year track record of Gulf of Mexico energy development and coexistence with a vibrant tourism and fishing industry. They also fail to recognize the implementation of what U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has called “the most aggressive and comprehensive offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms in the nation’s history.”
Without facts and reason on their side, they simply resort to myths and hyperbole. With that in mind, could these groups really be successful in shutting down the Gulf of Mexico?
Consider this: President Obama has already issued a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands, and when he removed the Atlantic in March, he did so despite the fact that all of the governors in the proposed leasing region supported moving forward with leasing and in spite of consistent majority support for offshore development in the region as reflected in public polling.
Yes, it could really happen. That is why Texans across the state need to weigh in now to tell the Obama administration that the Gulf of Mexico must be included in the next leasing program without any further restrictions or reductions. With clear warning signs visible to all and our state’s business climate and livelihoods on the line, standing on the sidelines is simply no longer an option.
Stephen Minick is vice president in government affairs at the Texas Association of Business.