Facts and Context on New Federal Well Permits
Posted November 4, 2022
An article this week that claimed President Biden’s regulators have approved new oil and natural gas wells at a faster pace than the Trump administration did in its first 21 months in office may have generated the attention its writer and editors wanted.
Unfortunately, creating a buzz doesn’t equate with good, even-handed, fact-based journalism.
Intentionally or not, this story (subscription required) was misleading and lacked the context required by responsible journalism. We’ll rebut the impression the article left just below.
But first, amid an ongoing energy crisis, Americans must look at the broader Biden administration energy record. When they do, they’ll see one step after another to restrict American oil and natural gas production – which could help address the worldwide imbalance between demand and supply.
President Biden’s approach on oil and natural gas actually was clear before he took office. On the campaign trail he promised to eliminate them, guaranteed to end them, promised no new fracking and vowed to transition the U.S. away from oil.
I hit on a number of ways the administration has followed up on those statements in this Twitter thread. In a nutshell, here’s the Biden oil and natural gas record:
- Offered fewer acres for oil and natural gas development on federal lands and waters than any other administration since World War II. The administration paused new federal leasing its first week in office and maintained the moratorium much of last year and into this year.
- Missed deadlines for scheduling quarterly onshore lease sales as required by law – zero in 2021 and just one this year.
- Canceled infrastructure, including the Keystone XL pipeline the president’s first day in office.
- Entertained proposals to increase taxes on American producers. This week, the president threatened to seek a windfall profits tax on corporate earnings.
- Encouraged the U.S. financial sector to steer clear of oil and natural gas projects, chilling the investment climate for new development.
- Repeatedly blamed producers and refiners for fuel prices, even though prices are largely dictated by crude oil costs set by global markets and despite the fact refineries have been operating near capacity.
In that context, Politico’s story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. But let’s look at the facts on approved drilling permits:
- The Biden administration came into office benefiting from standards implemented by the previous administration to improve the efficiency of permitting approvals. A running start, if you will.
- Approved federal permits to drill onshore between October 2021 and August 2022, on average, fell 34% compared to the fiscal year monthly average in 2020.
- In Biden’s first year in office (2021), approved new offshore well permits for the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 15% of total U.S. crude oil production, declined 20% compared to the previous administration’s first year in office (2017).
- Offshore spud wells – referring to the process of beginning a new well – declined 32% in Biden’s first year compared to the previous administration’s first year.
We recognize the political context for White House rhetoric of late – as well as some journalists’ pursuit of a juicy counternarrative. Yet, while we can debate the impact of such rhetoric on energy markets, it’s not debatable that the Biden administration has made American oil and natural gas production far more difficult since Day 1.
Don’t just take my word for it; this thorough Wall Street Journal analysis provides additional detail.
America’s oil and natural gas producers have been increasing production to meet the current crisis, but more is needed. With the right policy support, American oil and natural gas can be unleashed – to help relieve the crisis domestically and around the world, while boosting our economy and strengthening our energy security.
That’s the real story Americans should know.
About The Author
Megan Barnett Bloomgren is API's senior vice president for communications. She came to API in 2017 after serving as acting deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she directed communications and policy-related actions for the secretary. Before joining the administration, Meg was a partner at DCI Group, a public affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Prior to DCI, she led strategy and operations for the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which followed positions at the U.S. Energy Department, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. Meg is a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia.