Trump said to be gearing up for expanded Arctic oil exploration opportunities

Drill baby drill? That’s the question on the minds of many proponents of American domestic energy independence. Word on the street this week is that President Trump is getting ready to launch some new initiatives in collaboration with concerned members of the legislative branch (including Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski) which could move this agenda forward. Unfortunately, unlike other initiatives which have been launched via executive action, much of this work will require Congress to get on board.

Still, some of the degradation in the process left behind by Barack Obama could be cleaned up fairly quickly. One aspect of that is found in the scheduling of new leases for drilling. (Bloomberg)

Senator Lisa Murkowski said President Donald Trump is interested in opening up new coastal waters for oil and gas drilling and reversing Obama-era policies that restrict energy development in Alaska.

Both Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are weighing ways to expand opportunities to drill in Arctic waters though the changes could take years to accomplish administratively, Murkowski said in an interview on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston.

β€œIt’s fair to say we are looking at how we might be able to — how the administration might be able to — allow for opportunities within this important area, offshore Alaska,” Murkowski said.

Even the leasing process is subject to some stonewalling by liberals because before new grants of this nature are issued there is always a period of congressional review followed by public comment and hearings. These tend to get bogged down by the “Leave It in the Ground” crew and their well-funded lobbyists. Still, with enough appropriate support in both chambers of Congress and an early start, new permits could conceivably be in the pipeline by the end of next year (pun intended).

The far more tricky proposal being considered is one which involves opening up offshore areas which were “permanently” blocked off by Barack Obama last year. Reversing that order would essentially be unprecedented in the history of the nation. Of course, what Obama did in the first place was equally unprecedented. The measure he used to lock off vast undersea areas had previously only been summoned up to preserve specific wildlife sanctuaries and breeding grounds, not entire sections of the continental shelf. It would be a worthwhile effort for the Trump administration to attempt this but we should expect it to take years, not months, for the various inevitable court challenges to play out.

Enthusiasm in the oil and gas industry has already ramped up significantly since the inauguration, providing a much-needed injection of capital and confidence in the energy sector. Fuel Fix is reporting that the US rig count is up for the eighth week in a row. This is precisely the type of private-sector confidence and investment which must be paired with any government action if there is any hope for significant and sustained growth.

There’s one final news item I wanted to toss in with this story which will be of interest on the jobs front. While I would always prefer to see more hiring taking place in the private sector even as we shrink the government behemoth, we have a tremendously understaffed government agency where we might be able to do a bit more hiring. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for mandatory government inspections of oil pipelines and related infrastructure. We currently have only one inspector for every 5000 miles of pipeline in the country at a time when new projects, including Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline, are ramping up. These are some government jobs, few though they might be, which really need to be filled and I’m sure we could find someone who needs the work. If you’re interested you can check into these job opportunities here.