Fuel the American Economy with Offshore Energy

By Andrew LangerSome parting gift: On his way out the White House door, President Barack Obamabanned seismic surveying in the Atlantic Ocean from New England south toVirginia.It was a fitting end to eight years of an administration dedicated tofrustrating the development of domestic energy resources at every turn.Fortunately, indications are that President Donald Trump will take a morewelcoming view of U.S. oil and gas production.The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management handed down the ban in responseto six applications to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic.  These surveys locate and create images of rock formations, a keystep in the search for oil and gas reserves below the ocean floor.BOEM claimed that the surveys would be disruptive and could harm marine life.This is part of a pattern of flimsy excuse-making for decisions that are reallyall about politics.Last year, after the federal government spent months contemplating opening upareas of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas leasing, the Obama administrationdecided to block all exploration in these areas for five years.In December, President Obama announced a permanent ban on offshore drilling infederal waters along the Atlantic Coast and in the ArcticThis was done,characteristically, by executive order, itself justified by the dubiousapplication of a dated law.Obama hoped for a successor who agrees with his anti-energy policies. When hedidn’t get one, he moved to lock his preferences in past the expiration of histerm.His executive orders and rules banning drilling and surveying will require apronounced effort to overturn.  The outgoing administration even boastedabout how difficult, if not impossible, its anti-energy policies would be toundo.But President Trump has repeatedly expressed his intention to rev up Americanenergy production.  The new president will have the facts on his side.First, the flimsy excuses: seismic surveys are not harmful to marine life. Theyhave been safely conducted along the U.S. coast for years. That’s because suchsurveys proceed only after extensive studies to determine what impact they willhave. As an additional safeguard, survey sound levels increase gradually,allowing marine life to get clear of the area.The BOEM itself has admitted “there has been no documented scientificevidence of noise from… seismic activities adversely affecting marine animalpopulations or coastal communities.”So, offshore development would do nothing to harm marine life. But it wouldunleash a wave of economic benefits. Currently, nearly 90 billion barrels ofoil and 405 trillion cubic feet of gas are untapped. Leasing these areas fordevelopment would create 840,000 jobs, put $200 billion into the federaltreasury, and ramp up domestic energy production by 3.5 billion barrels of oila day.What’s more, the need for new surveys is now acute. The last seismic surveyconducted in the Atlantic Outer Continental shelf was three decades ago. Newsurveys using advanced technology will likely reveal large additional reservesof oil.Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration declared itself”committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americansand maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence onforeign oil.”To make good on its commitment, President Trump will have to end hispredecessor’s war against American energy production. A good place to start isto allow seismic surveys in potentially rich oil and gas areas off America’scoast.Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty.

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