Obama policies hamper oil industry potential

Most Westerners appreciate that energy development creates jobs beyond its own industry and funds critical local and state programs such as education, public safety, conservation and infrastructure projects. Despite serving as the backbone of the Western economy, the oil and natural gas industry continues to face hostile government policies that undermine the West’s potential to grow.

According to the Western Energy Alliance’s Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity, by 2020 the West will produce as much oil and natural gas on a daily basis as the U.S. imports from Russia, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria and Colombia, combined. Our study concludes that if government red tape doesn’t stand in the way, oil and natural gas producers in the West are poised to put 70,000 more Americans to work and spark more than $58 billion in investment, all the while making our country less dependent on foreign energy.

President Obama’s continued pledge to reduce regulations on American small businesses makes for a nice sound bite, but the reality is that his own administration’s misguided policies are making energy development in the West increasingly difficult, time-consuming and cost prohibitive. This bureaucratic red tape is preventing Western energy producers from tapping our region’s vast supplies of oil and natural gas, which if developed would solve many of our nation’s economic and energy security challenges. The president is actually delaying the economic recovery he seeks.

Luckily, many of Colorado’s elected officials understand the immense economic benefits that responsible energy development provides to our state. In recent days, in a bipartisan policy forum, both Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and state Sen. Michael Johnston touted our Blueprint and the exciting projections, including 26,000 new jobs in Colorado and a 124 percent increase in tax revenue to the state that help fill depleted local and state budget coffers.

The good news is that it’s not too late to turn the ship around and ensure that these exciting projections are realized. Based on the conclusions found in the Blueprint, the Western Energy Alliance proposes a comprehensive reform of the entire federal onshore process and an immediate moratorium on new and expanded layers of regulation. Measures must also be taken to limit litigation that unreasonably obstructs domestic energy production and economic growth.

If our policymakers are to implement a reasonable and balanced regulatory environment, they must understand that the West is supplying an increasing amount of domestic energy with a smaller environmental footprint. Our region produces 27 percent of our nation’s natural gas and 14 percent of our oil, while impacting less than 0.07 percent of public lands. Policies that further limit access to these non-park, non-wilderness lands, are putting vast American energy supplies off limits, hurting job growth, and resulting in lost revenue for local, state, and federal governments.

As the Blueprint demonstrates, the future of Western energy is expected to be bright, as long as misguided government policies don’t stand in the way. With national unemployment still hovering above 8 percent, our elected officials should focus on creating jobs and reducing oil imports from unfriendly nations, instead of making it more difficult and costly to develop American energy.

It’s going to take leaders from both political parties for the West, and our nation, to rebuild our economy and decrease our energy dependence. We hope that more of our leaders in Washington will follow the example of Speaker McNulty and Sen. Johnston by calling on the Obama administration to end its attack on Western oil and natural gas producers and allow our industry to develop American energy and put Westerners back to work.

Wigley is president of the Western Energy Alliance.

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