As of Friday, August 10, 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to vastly expand offshore oil and gas production -- and politicians from coastal states are livid.
The Senate Energy Committee recently hauled Sec. Zinke to Capitol Hill for intense questioning. Lawmakers from Washington, Oregon, and other coastal states demanded he delay his planned expansion. They’re concerned that offshore drilling could harm the environment. Some state officials have even threatened to sue the administration to halt the plan.
Sec. Zinke shouldn’t let this opposition shake his resolve. His offshore drilling plan will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs while safeguarding the environment.
Obama-era regulations banned energy production in 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf, which includes acreage off Alaska, the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern seaboard. Obama administration officials had planned to keep those areas closed to energy exploration through 2022.
Sec. Zinke plans to reverse that ban and open over 90 percent of total OCS acreage to oil and natural gas exploration through 2024. His plan would authorize new leases in 47 shelf areas, some of which have not been explored for a quarter century.
The plan would do wonders for the American economy. Opening the OCS to oil and natural gas development would add nearly $600 billion to the U.S. economy within 20 years. It would also create more than 700,000 jobs.
In the Atlantic region, the plan could boost domestic crude oil production by more than 250,000 barrels per day within three years of the moment when companies drill the first well. Constant production would create 260,000 jobs over twenty years.
Development in the Pacific would generate 300,000 jobs within 20 years. Nearly 58,000 of those jobs would be created in states that don’t even border the ocean.
The positions will help tens of thousands of families achieve the American dream. The average annual compensation for workers in the oil and natural gas sector is over $94,000, significantly more than the $45,000 median wage for American workers in 2017.
Energy production is expensive. Oil and natural gas firms would spend $22 billion per year to develop oil and natural gas resources in Atlantic states and $25 billion per year in Pacific states.
That spending would lead to higher employment in fields ranging from finance to food service. In the Atlantic region, drilling would create 135,000 non-oil and gas jobs within 20 years.
Americans need not worry about sacrificing the environment for these economic gains. Offshore drilling is safer now than it has ever been. Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the Louisiana coast, technological advances and accident prevention and response strategies have improved safety practices across the board.
Since the spill, leading oil and natural gas companies have started the Center for Offshore Safety, which is responsible for setting new safety standards and compiling necessary performance metrics to identify areas for improvement.
As Scott Angelle, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, has noted, an increase in domestic energy production and safety and environmental protection do not have to be mutually exclusive.
More offshore drilling would boost wages and create jobs with virtually no risk to the environment. There’s no reason for politicians in coastal states to fear Secretary Zinke’s plan.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. This piece originally ran in the Washington Examiner.