Several stories today worth comparing -- the first a commentary by Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott, in which he sets the record straight on the availability of federal lands for oil and gas exploration:
Based on government data...Ninety four percent of federal onshore lands are off-limits to oil and gas exploration, while 97 percent of offshore federal lands are off-limits.
So virtually all of the public lands now owned by the American people but controlled by the federal government isn't even eligible to be placed on the auction block for bidding by U.S. companies for energy exploration rights leasing.
Who benefits from this lockup of virtually all of America's public lands from American energy companies? Well, here are the top beneficiaries:
* National Iranian Oil Company
* Saudi Arabian Oil Company
* Iraq National Oil Company
* Qatar General Petroleum Corporation
* Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (UAE)
* Kuwait Petroleum Corporation
* Petroleos de Venezuela.S.A.
* Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
* National Oil Company (Libya)
* Sonatrach (Algeria)
...When the U.S. government prevents domestic energy firms to explore and develop this country's incredibly abundant resources - we are "the Saudi Arabia of coal" and could be swimming in cheap gas if we developed our plentiful oil shale resources - Americans are forced to import more foreign oil.
Compare that to this report from USA Today about the population and financial boom in North Dakota, which has far less federally-owned lands than other resource-rich states like Colorado, Utah and Wyoming:
The superstar of North Dakota is its economy. The state's unemployment rate hasn't touched 5 percent since 1987. The state's per capita income rose over the decade from 38th in the nation to 17th, the biggest advance of any state.
"We've had an absolutely stellar few years," says University of North Dakota economist David Flynn. "In all honesty, when you look ahead, we should continue to do well for quite a while."
North Dakota is enjoying an oil boom in the western part of the state, drawing workers from across the country. Williston, in oil country, grew 17.6 percent to 14,716. The oil windfall has created a $1 billion state budget surplus.
And this good news in the Land of Enchantment:
The New Mexico Land Office has collected $9.5 million from oil and natural gas lease sales during the first quarter, with more than half of that coming from this month's sale.
The Land Office said the sale held Tuesday in Santa Fe raised more than $5.5 million for 40 tracts of land in Eddy and Lea counties.
"We're increasing in Montana by thousands of jobs in drilling in what's called the Bakken (Shale Formation) in eastern Montana (where there also less federally-owned land than in the western part of the state)," the state's Governor Brian Schweitzer told Fox News. "It is the richest geologic structure in all of the United States. Recent estimates are that there's about 25 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana. To put that in perspective we import about 4 billion barrels a year. We use about 6 billon barrels a year. So this one structure in North Dakota and Montana could be one of the keys to energy independence in the short term."
It's no coincidence that Montana and North Dakota are the only two states in the Union with budget surpluses at a time when others are slashing spending just to stay afloat. At a time when most states are dealing with an unemployment crisis, North Dakota boasted a 3.9 percent unemployment rate in 2010, the lowest in the nation for the third straight year....
Kathleen Sgamma (of the Western Energy Alliance) said this promising picture could be even better than it is. Much of the lands in production in the Niobrara and Bakken formations are privately owned, which greatly decreases permitting red tape for companies wanting to drill. On federal and tribal lands, she said the process is much more difficult and therefore far longer.
"Because of certain regulatory efforts by this administration, particularly on the Department of the Interior and the EPA, western producers were prevented from investing about 3.9-billion dollars in 2010 and that translates roughly into 16,200 jobs," she said.
So instead of providing access for more energy development and job growth, the administration hoards land, and gives taxpayer money to subsidize wind and solar energy that ends up killing jobs. And the unnecessarily large oil imports continue. Let's find the Federal Government a Realtor since it clearly has no idea how to manage our land for us.
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