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American Energy: The Facts

There are some who want to paint a bleak picture of the state of American energy, so let’s take a look at the facts.

Any American who has filled up recently knows that prices at the pump, driven by increased world oil prices, are too high. The President understands the impact this has on families and businesses.  He also knows there’s no silver bullet to bring down the price at the pump.  That is why he continues to invest in a sustained, all-of-the-above approach to American energy, increasing the efficiency of the vehicles we drive, investing in advanced technologies and alternative fuels, and expanding responsible domestic oil and gas production.

When it comes to domestic production, the President has made clear he wants us to continue to produce more oil and natural gas.  This alone isn’t a solution to high gas prices, but it will help reduce our reliance on foreign oil and our vulnerability to the ups and downs of the international market. On that front, the numbers speak for themselves; every year the President has been in office, domestic oil and gas production is up, foreign imports of oil are down, and currently we are producing more oil than any time in eight years.  In fact, imports of foreign oil decreased by a million barrels a day in the last year alone. 

Despite these encouraging trends, there are some who seem to want to paint a bleak picture of the state of American energy. So let’s take a look at the facts.

In 2011, American oil production reached the highest level in nearly a decade and natural gas production reached an all-time high.

America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year since President Obama took office. Thanks to booming U.S. oil and gas production, more efficient cars and trucks, and a world-class refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in 60 years, we have cut net imports by ten percent – or a million barrels a day – in the last year alone.

Thanks to new fuel economy standards the President announced last year, we will nearly double the efficiency of the cars and trucks we drive – to 55 miles per gallon – by 2025. These historic standards won’t just save the average driver more than $8000 at the pump – they’ll reduce oil imports by 2.2 million barrels a day and put us on track to meeting the President’s goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by the end of the decade, relative to where they were when he ran for office.

On Monday, the President received a new progress report on his Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that showcases our historic achievements as part of an all-of-the-above approach to American energy – a strategy aimed at reducing our reliance on foreign oil, saving families and businesses money at the pump, and positioning the United States as the global leader in clean energy. 

Growing Oil & Gas Development on Public Lands and Waters

Despite these successes some have called into question production of oil and natural gas on America’s public lands and offshore waters. Again, the facts speak for themselves, and a new report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) published today confirms that the Obama Administration has overseen an overall expansion of production on federal lands and waters – as part of the nationwide rise in production levels.  At the same time we are taking concrete steps to encourage industry to develop the thousands of leases and permits they already have but are currently sitting idle (more on that below).

We know that production levels will fluctuate from year-to-year based on market conditions and industry decisions. It also reflects the fact that the nation battled a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Still, the overall trends show a clear picture of rising domestic production.

Confirmed by the EIA: Oil and Gas Production on Federal Lands and Waters is Up Overall

Total federal oil production (offshore and onshore) has increased by 13 percent during the first three years of the Obama Administration combined, compared with the last three years of the previous administration. Each of the three years from 2009-2011 was higher than any year from 2006-2008.


Total Oil Production on Public Lands and Waters

Total (million barrels)



















2009 (Obama)




2010 (Obama)




2011 (Obama)











+ 13%


Total natural gas production from public lands (onshore) has increased by 6 percent during the first three years of the Obama Administration combined, compared with the last three years of the previous administration.


Natural Gas Production Onshore on Public Lands

Total (billion cubic feet)



















2009 (Obama)




2010 (Obama)




2011 (Obama)











+ 6%


Offshore natural gas production has steadily declined for a decade as market conditions and new technologies have led to a major shift away from offshore waters to private lands in the east and south. Still, total federal natural gas production (offshore + onshore) has largely kept pace overall with levels before the President took office.

Expansion of Active Oil and Gas Rig

In addition to higher production levels overall, we are seeing major development activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Independent analysis shows that the total number of active offshore rigs in the United States was higher in January 2012 than any time since May 2010.

Nationwide, the total number of oil rigs (offshore and onshore) has quadrupled since the President took office.

Providing Access and Opportunity for Development

The Obama Administration continues to provide ample opportunity to drill on public lands and waters – in fact, we provide more acres for leasing than industry has interest in buying. While industry has more acreage under lease than it is putting to productive use, we continue to encourage companies to use the leases they already own, while offering up millions of new areas for development.

Leases Sitting Idle

  • On public lands, industry has leased approximately 38 million acres of land, but is actively producing or exploring on just 16 million of those acres that they already have purchased the rights to.
  • Offshore, industry has leased nearly 38 million acres, but operators were actively exploring or developing on just over 10 million of those acres that they already have purchased the rights to – leaving more than 70 percent of leased acres idle, as of 2011.

Approved Permits Unused

  • Companies continue to sit on thousands of approved but unused onshore drilling permits and leases on our public lands – 7,000 drilling permits received by industry that aren't being acted upon – that aren’t being used actually to produce oil and gas.

Millions of Acres Offered for New Leases

  • On public lands, DOI held 32 onshore oil and gas lease sales, offering 1,755 parcels of land covering nearly 4.4 million acres in 2011. We will hold 32 additional sales in calendar year 2012.
  • Offshore, DOI offered nearly 37 million acres for lease, but companies leased just 2.4 million acres in 2010. In 2011, we held a lease sale in the Western Gulf of Mexico that made available more than 21 million acres – equal to an area the size of South Carolina – and just over 1 million acres were leased by industry.*
  • In addition, offshore permitting is nearly back to pre-Deepwater Horizon levels – while at the same time we have instituted the largest offshore drilling reforms in U.S. history following the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe to make sure that development happens safely and responsibly.
  • Since these new standards were put into place, we approved over 400 permits for oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico that meet these important new standards.

Opening 75 Percent of Available Offshore Resources to Development

Moving forward, at the President’s direction, we are making more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable offshore oil and natural gas resources available for exploration and development in the next five years. Those who claim that the areas that will be offered constitute few total acres aren’t paying attention to where the oil and gas resources are – that’s where we are focusing our attention, in places like the Western Gulf and the Central Gulf, an offshore area which, according to our resource estimates, has nearly double the resource potential of any other. Just look at this map.

Implementing Administrative Actions to Promote Safe and Responsible Development

At the President’s direction, we are also implementing a range of administrative reforms to promote safe and responsible developing. For more information on these reforms, click here.

*This number is not final; though we have evaluated all the bids, not all the leases have been executed at this point – and some changes may follow.