Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


October 27, 2017


President Donald Trump has made it a priority to take full advantage of America’s energy abundance, and his administration continues to turn that into reality.

For instance, the Interior Department announced an oil and natural gas lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico:  

The proposed region-wide lease sale covers 77 million acres in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

The sale is scheduled for March and includes all available unleased areas on the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf, the department said.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that offshore resources in the Gulf contain more than 48 billion barrels of oil and 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Not only is this welcome news for workers and businesses that get the energy from the bottom of the ocean, but the energy exporters and refiners in the Gulf Region will be pleased they’ll have plenty of oil and natural gas.

But Interior didn’t stop there. The next day, it announced it would take bids for leases in the 22.8-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A):

In keeping with the Trump administration’s energy policies the Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that it will be putting more of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska up for bid than ever before in the agency’s annual fall lease sale.

According to a BLM Alaska release, oil and gas explorers will be able to bid on 900 tracts covering 10.3 million acres in the NPR-A before bids are opened Dec. 6 in Anchorage.

The largest NPR-A offering to-date was in 2004 when 5.8 million acres over 508 leasable tracts were made available.

Congress is also getting in the act of expanding energy development. In the just-passed budget resolution are instructions to open the Alaska Natural Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) for energy development.

The U.S. Chamber supported this provision. A letter to Senators read, “Failing to develop domestic resources in an environmentally responsible manner undermines America’s national security.”

Residents living in Alaska’s Arctic areas also support energy development, as Katie Tubb of the Heritage Foundation pointed out:

Mayor Harry Brower Jr., who represents a borough in the wildlife refuge, said, “North Slope Borough residents recognize the importance of oil and gas to our local economy and the ability of our borough and city governments to provide public services.”

The Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, a 21-member nonprofit corporation, unanimously voted to pass a resolution backing “safe and reasonable development” in the wildlife refuge.

Moreover, the results of a 2017 survey of Kaktovik, a town in the 1002 area, show that 71 percent of those surveyed think oil and gas has the most significant economic impact on their community. Eighty-six percent view the offshore oil and gas industry as favorable.

It’s estimated that NPR-A holds 895 million barrels of oil and 52.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and the small section of ANWR where energy development would take place is estimated (from 1998) to contain 4.3 million to 11.8 million barrels of oil.

Increased production would be welcome for Alaska, since the state has underutilized energy infrastructure. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is transporting less oil today on a daily basis than it did when it was first built in 1977.

Beyond big lease sales, the Trump administration has been encouraging domestic energy development in other ways. Earlier this year, the Interior Department began work on a new five-year leasing plan for the outer continental shelf, and it said it would speed up approving permits for oil and natural gas development on federal lands.

This approach is in stark contrast to the previous administration. The Interior Department under President Barack Obama locked out 94% of federal offshore areas to energy development. In 2012 it locked up 50% of the NPR-A, even though it was created in 1923 to be an oil reserve. Then in 2015, President Obama wanted to put a big obstacle on future ANWR development by asking Congress in 2015 to make it a wilderness area. The next year, Obama’s Interior Department scrapped plans to sell oil leases in the Arctic Ocean and unnecessarily raised regulatory barriers to Arctic offshore development.

But now we have an administration that appreciates the good things America’s energy resources do for families, jobs, and the economy. For those who buy affordable, abundant energy or have their livelihoods depend on it, it must be a relief knowing there are people in Washington who side with them for a change. 

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

Read more