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The Interior Department has begun work on its new five-year leasing program, and the Atlantic coast might be opened to energy development. The Hill reports that earlier this year, Interior opened the door for seismic exploration of the Atlantic coast. With 87% of the outer continental shelf off-limits right now, that would be welcome news.
Offshore development has tremendous potential. In July, Mark Green wrote that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released new estimates of how much oil and natural gas is off the Atlantic coast:
BOEM now believes areas within the 200 nautical mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to Florida, could hold 4.72 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas. Those numbers are 43 percent and 20 percent higher, respectively, than the last government estimate of the Atlantic OCS done in 2011.
In 2013 at a House of Representatives Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, Christopher Guith, vice president of policy at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, explained the economic benefits from offshore development that are already occurring:
Offshore development supports over 240,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country, but nowhere is this more evident than the Gulf Coast economy. IHS Global Insight estimated that in 2009 the offshore oil and natural gas industry represented 9.3% of total employment and 12% of the economy, and generated almost $6 billion in state and local taxes and over $13 billion in federal revenue.
Opening up the Atlantic as well as more of the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic will mean more jobs and strengthened energy security. A 2013 study found that opening the Atlantic outer continental shelf to oil and natural gas exploration will create 280,000 jobs.
It may surprise you that in our divided country there’s bipartisan support for expanding offshore energy development. Members of Congress from both parties have sent letters urging expanded offshore energy exploration.
There’s also bipartisanship among governors. In February, Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Republican governors in advocating for offshore energy development.
Bipartisanship also extends to the public. A recent poll found that increased offshore energy development has majority support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Members of Congress, governors, and the public are all on board. Hopefully the administration will be too.