Use It Or Lose It: Report Shows Oil And Gas Companies Sitting On Thousands Of Unused Leases

by Mackenzie Bronson

Mitt Romney, the American Petroleum Institute, and other fossil fuel allies constantly agitate to open more federal lands and waters to drilling, claiming that they aren’t getting enough access.

But a new report from Representative Edward Markey titled “Use It or Lose It”  finds that 131 oil and gas companies have 3,684 idle leases in the Gulf of Mexico alone. The Big Five oil companies — BP, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips — are responsible for 40 percent of the 20.7 million acres “not undergoing exploration, development, or production” in the region.

According to the report, a majority of offshore leases and onshore leases are not being used by oil companies:

Oil companies have failed to explore, develop or produce these leases while simultaneously calling on Congress and the Interior Department to lease more federal offshore lands. This issue,  which has been hotly debated in recent years, came up in last Tuesday’s presidential debate when Republican nominee Mitt Romney wrongly accused President Obama of curtailing oil and gas drilling off America’s coasts and on public land. In fact, oil and gas production from public lands  is higher than it was during the last three years of the George W. Bush administration, and the Obama administration is trying to further boost production through “use it or lose it” policies for  idle federal drilling leases. Oil and gas companies are currently not using 72 percent of the total  acres leased offshore and 56 percent of the total acres leased onshore.

Below is a chart showing the change in oil drilling on public lands between the Bush and Obama Administrations:

Romney’s complaints about permits imply that the number of drilling permits is the best measure of oil production from federal lands and waters – but they are not.  The best measure is the amount of oil produced from these places.  The Energy Information Administration reports that there was more oil produced from federal places in every year under President Obama compared to each of the last three years under President Bush.  Total oil production from these places during these two time periods was 240 million barrels of oil higher under Obama than under Bush.

So much for Romney’s claims about the reduction in oil production from federal areas.  And total U.S. oil production under President Obama is at a 17-year high.

The next time Romney or his big oil allies beleaguer about permits or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it is essential to remember that there are nearly 3,700 idle leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mackenzie Bronson is an intern with the energy policy team at the Center for American Progress.

3 Responses to Use It Or Lose It: Report Shows Oil And Gas Companies Sitting On Thousands Of Unused Leases

  1. Leif says:

    I think a motivating factor is the GOP money/power control is threatened by a healthy society. The old saying is: “Control their bellies and sex lives and their minds follow.” Hungry sheep, (or addicted/to oil, consumerism…), will allow the profits from the pollution of the commons, (don’t hurt the GDP! No taxes, hate gays, etc) which helps the gullible a little bit, but helps the rich a whole lot. Why do you think that they control 95% of the nations wealth? Because they are smart? Get real. Why do tax exempt lobby efforts return about $40 for every dollar invested? Only to be reinvested in tax free or low tax money makers, that just happens to trash the commons. Corpro/People want to tie up those permits in legal limbo while the getting is good. But hay, there are profits to protect. The list goes on. Stop the huge profits from pollution of the commons and the money stream dries up quickly. Them starts to flow back to society. Distributed Green Power is the conduit. A carbon tax returned to the 99% and perhaps some to jump start the Green Awakening economy and you have the switch in your hands.

  2. Zimzone says:

    If the Mittster didn’t lie, he would be a mime.

  3. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    OT, but PBS Frontline tonight (10/23) has show titled “Climate of Doubt” on shift of public perception of climate issue in the US. More information is on Skeptical Science.