Op-Ed: The World Needs U.S. Offshore Energy

BSEE image of a rig in the Gulf of Mexico
File image courtesy BSEE

Published Dec 11, 2023 6:14 PM by Tim Tarpley

As the price of gas continues to seemingly hold steady at around three dollars a gallon, the pocketbooks of Americans continue to suffer. Regretfully, due to global conflict and the outbreak of wars across Europe and the Middle East, oil prices are continuing to climb upwards, troubled by geopolitical conflict and fears of a potential shutdown of international oil and gas fields.

Thankfully, the United States has long been blessed with tremendous sources of domestic energy that, if properly utilized, can protect us from suffering a similar energy-reliance disaster as experienced in Europe. In addition to renewable energy sources, the United States boasts multiple basins, many right here in Louisiana, with significant oil and natural gas reserves. If we continue to allow Americans to access these resources, we will never face such a dilemma.   

U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) recently filed H.R. 5616, the Bridge Production Act, supported by the Energy Workforce and Technology Council, to guarantee this access to American oil and gas and ensure that the rights to domestic resource development are kept from being interrupted or administratively slowed down. 

The truth is that the United States and the world will need a lot more oil and gas in the coming decades, even as new forms of energy come online. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that the worldwide demand for all forms of energy will increase by 50% by 2050. There are many who argue that we cannot continue to produce domestic American energy and meet our environmental goals. These individuals are simply wrong.  

Already, the Gulf of Mexico produces some of the lowest carbon barrels of oil in the world. Offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico maintain stringent controls on methane emissions, resulting in notably lower emissions than those observed in other producing regions around the world. The Gulf is also subject to a strong regulatory oversight framework and has adequate pipeline infrastructure to move product to market safely and efficiently.

For a bit of historical context, back in 1953, Congress passed the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which states that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, within the Department of the Interior, must prepare and maintain forward-looking five-year plans to schedule proposed oil and gas lease sales on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. This law was very clear, these lease sales were required to occur on a five-year basis, understanding that the American people had the right to access these resources, the government was simply a steward of them, not the owner.  It was never meant to be discretionary access. 

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration not only allowed the current plan to expire and implemented massive delays in announcing a new program but then announced the lowest number of offshore leases in recorded history. The new plan drastically decreases the number of sales from eleven to three in the span of five years, a blatantly political move that jeopardizes not only the jobs of over 370,000 American energy workers but our nation’s energy security and independence.

The repercussions of this move are well studied, including reduced industry spending levels, drastically decreased employment across the offshore energy sector, lessened gross domestic product and government revenues and plummeting oil and natural gas production across the Gulf of Mexico.

H.R. 5616, the BRIDGE Production Act of 2023, mandates that the Secretary of Interior hold no less than four offshore lease sales on specified dates that cannot be bureaucratically delayed prior to the implementation of the new plan. This Congressional mandate will bring regulatory certainty for the Louisiana workforce that relies on the offshore energy industry for our livelihoods and will allow for long-term investments necessary to continue to develop our offshore resources. 

By providing the American people with clear and consistent guarantees that they will be able to access their resources in a timely and consistent manner, we will keep energy costs affordable, keep Americans employed and support investment in our domestic resources. The hardworking men and women of America should not have to beg their government to access their own resources off the coast. The consistency offered by H.R. 5616 will ensure the energy security of not only the United States but also our friends and allies abroad. America should never find itself in a situation where our economy, or our politics for that matter, are held hostage by a foreign nation. We have been blessed with adequate resources to avoid that fate, and we must stand strong in our support of the resources that power not only our state and nation but the world economy.

Tim Tarpley is President at the Energy Workforce & Technology Council, the national trade association for the global energy technology and services sector, representing more than 665,000 U.S. jobs in the technology-driven energy value chain. 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.