The Obama administration is definitely not prioritizing oil and gas permits

The American energy sector has been one of the more powerful engines moving right along in our otherwise largely stalled-out economy in the last few years, a fact that President Obama isn’t hesitant to note — even though the oil-and-gas industry’s growth has largely been due to burgeoning technological innovation and heightened exploration on state- and private-lands, rather than any major federal-level actions.

In yet another of his “I want to have my cake, and eat it, too”-type energy policy proposals (re: “all of the above”), the president unveiled a new plan for an Energy Security Trust a couple weeks back, which in theory will divert billions of dollars from oil-and-gas revenues on federal lands into a fund for subsidizing politically-favored “green” energy technologies. So many flaws, so little time:

The Administration’s plan has three fatal flaws. First, it neglects expanding oil and gas production on federal lands and off America’s coasts. Second, it would duplicate already-tried-and-failed attempts to subsidize energy technologies. Third, it ignores that competition in the marketplace is most effective in driving technological innovation. …

The White House proposal does not address expanding onshore or offshore leasing and exploration. This is a costly missed opportunity. At least 19 billion barrels of easily recoverable oil lie off the currently restricted Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The proposal extends the senseless restriction on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil lie beneath a few thousand acres that can be accessed with minimal environmental impact. Federally owned land in the western United States would also continue to be off limits.

Yes, oil and gas revenues and private-sector growth have been proceeding apace — but not nearly at the pace that they could be if the federal government wasn’t conspicuously neglecting to expedite more oil and gas permits. There’s no shortage of companies clamoring for access, and every declined or stalled application is a chance for the private sector to grow the economy and create jobs — as a recent USDA report attested, via the WFB:

The report is the latest addition to a mounting body of evidence undercutting the administration’s claims that it has fostered increased oil and gas production, critics say. …

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspector general examined 1,881 applications for drilling permits on public land. Fewer than 4 percent of those applications were “recent,” or filed in the last 180 days. The rest had experienced prolonged delays.

“By not processing these nominations as expeditiously as possible,” the Forest Service, a division of the USDA, “may be causing the federal government to forego revenue or prevent or delay the efforts of the private sector to provide energy to the public.”

Two words: Opportunity costs. That is all.

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