By Tom Kenworthy, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Almost from the moment Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and his Grand Oil Party colleagues took over the leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee they have been trying to spread the lie that Obama administration energy development policies have crippled domestic oil and gas production, raised gasoline prices, and cost jobs.
Not only is the industry sitting on oil and gas leases on public lands totaling more than 30 million acres without developing them, but the evidence is clear that it is market forces that largely determine the pace of drilling.
A new study by Headwaters Economics buttresses this point. The Bozeman, Montana-based independent research group reports that oil and gas drilling levels in the U.S. have now rebounded strongly from the recession, reaching almost a 20-year high. Based on numbers from Baker Hughes, the oil and gas industry standard for counting drill rigs, study author Julia Haggerty said that oil and gas drilling has surged during the Obama administration:
Oil and natural gas drilling activity has made a strong recovery since reaching a recession-induced low in late 2008. Market prices and advancements in drilling technology account for most of the increases in drilling activity. . . . When it comes to land-based oil and gas drilling in the United States, there is little evidence that state and federal regulations are hampering industry’s ability to respond to market signals.
As the charts prepared by Headwaters Economics for ThinkProgress below show, when the price of oil and natural gas rise, do does drilling activity, and it has little to do with policy:
The Republican drumbeat attacking the government for spiking oil prices is a deliberate attempt at misdirection. Despite overwhelming evidence from both federal commodities regulators and the industry itself, the Grand Oil Party won’t admit that speculation is a big factor in the recent runup in gasoline prices. After all, how could “market forces” be to blame for American pain at the pump?