The oil industry and its well-compensated apologists in Congress like to complain that the Obama administration is stalling oil production on public lands. The problem with that argument: it’s demonstrably false.
While plenty of environmental advocates may wish that President Obama was actively working to keep the fossil fuel reserves underground, the data tells a much different story.
In fact, according to new data released by the Department of the Interior, the amount of crude oil produced on onshore federal lands in 2013 was the highest it has been in over a decade.
This hasn’t stopped the oil industry from “distorting and cherry-picking statistics,” in the words of the Center for Western Priorities, to argue for even fewer regulations and more lax permitting processes.
A recent post on the The Daily Caller is representative of the oil industry's spin, and provides a tutorial in cherry-picking data.
The total number of oil and gas drilling leases issued in 2013 reached a nearly three-decade lows, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The bureau says it issued 1,468 drilling leases last year, totaling 1.17 million acres of federal land — the lowest figures since 1988, which is the oldest year for which the BLM has data.
Overall, U.S. oil production has boomed in recent years, but production on federal lands has been falling. The Congressional Research Service reports that oil production on federal lands fell from 1,731,500 barrels per day in 2009 to 1,627,400 barrels per day in 2012, and the total shareof crude oil produced on federal lands fell to 26 percent in 2012 from 33 percent in 2009.
Let’s unpack this a bit.