Why Are House Republicans Holding Hearing #20 About How To Drill More Despite The Fact That We Are Drilling Like Crazy?

By Christy Goldfuss and Jessica Goad, of CAP’s Public Lands Project, and Michael Conathan and Kiley Kroh, of CAP’s Oceans Program.

Tomorrow, less than a week after issuing the most recent five-year leasing plan for offshore oil and gas development, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is slated to testify in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on “The Future of U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Development on Federal Lands and Waters.” As part of the committee’s 19 previous hearings, members of the committee have accused the Obama administration and the Secretary of “dramatically declined permitting,” imposing “constant obstacles,” and putting “the brakes on” American energy development.

As described in more detail below, we are drilling more in this country than we have since 1987. So why are we sitting through a 20th hearing on oil and gas drilling when the committee has only held four on wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined? Follow the money. We have compiled a chart of the members of the Natural Resources Committee who can count the oil and gas industry among the top five contributors to their election campaigns over the course of their careers.

Using data from, ThinkProgress has also determined that Republicans on the committee have already taken in $485,506 for next year’s election, compared with Democrats who have received at most $79,000 in donations. So, the party holding a majority of seats in the House — and therefore in charge of setting the hearing schedules—has taken six times as many campaign contributions from Big Oil in 2012 cycle compared to the minority.

Although the committee’s leadership have tried to make the case that the Obama administration is standing in the way of oil and gas development on federal lands and waters, the facts show that we are drilling for oil and gas more than anywhere else in the world. Here are some important pieces of information to keep in mind for tomorrow’s hearing:

– The Wall Street Journal reported in late August that U.S. oil drilling is “up nearly 60% in the past year and the highest total since at least 1987, when oil services company Baker Hughes Inc. began keeping track.”
– A June 2011 report by Headwaters Economics found that U.S. onshore drilling activity was at 91 percent of the 20-year high.
– There is more drilling in the U.S. than the rest of the world combined. As of today, there are 2,016 drill rigs operating in the U.S. and 1,697 rigs operating in the rest of the world, according to industry statistics.
– In 2010, total U.S. oil production (onshore and offshore) was the highest it has been since 2003.
– In 2010, the BLM processed 5,000 drilling permit applications; in 2011, that number is projected to be 7,200.
– Shallow water permits have averaged more than seven per month since fall 2010, about equal to 2009.
– Earlier this year, the administration announced a massive sale of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico
– Despite serious misgivings from the public, conservationists, and the Coast Guard, the administration approved initial permits for Royal Dutch Shell to commence exploratory drilling in the Arctic.

Meanwhile, the Big Five oil companies have posted $101 billion dollars in profits so far this year, which does not necessarily mean they will spend that money to put people back to work. From 2005-2010, BP, Shell, Exxon/Mobil, and Chevron combined to make more than half a trillion dollars in profits, and they reduced their U.S. workforce by over 11,000 jobs. In 2010 alone, while oil drilling increased nearly 60 percent, and they pocketed $73 billion, they handed pink slips to 4,400 Americans.

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