Back in 2017, a few months after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order to expand offshore drilling in the U.S., allowing our nation to take full advantage of its energy riches. However this plan is now under attack as it was struck down back in March by Sharon Gleason, a District Court judge in Alaska.
Judge Gleason argued that President Trump had no authority to overturn President Obama’s drilling ban. Gleason’s interpretation of the law saying “the President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf,” is legally dubious and likely to get shot down in court. However, the Trump Administration has now indefinitely delayed its rollout of plans for offshore energy development in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
Advances in the drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing or fracking have helped to dramatically increase U.S. oil production over the past decade, driving down prices and reducing our reliance on oil imports from nations that may be hostile to the U.S. Just last year, oil imports from Saudi Arabia dipped down to levels not seen since 1980. We’re now sitting on the verge of total energy independence, a goal that seemed impossible not too long ago, and offshore drilling could be the final step to help us break our foreign oil habit once and for all.
Halting plans for offshore drilling is a major setback for our burgeoning oil and gas industry. An estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 328 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may lie beneath the outer continental shelf (enough to power the U.S. for two whole years!). Currently offshore drilling only accounts for 16% of U.S. production but expanding drilling to areas that were previously declared to be off limits by the Obama Administration would raise that figure substantially. Offshore drilling would also have a massive effect on our economy by creating around 840,000 new jobs and generating up to $200 billion in new revenue by 2035.
Some remain concerned about the possible environmental impacts of offshore drilling, but they shouldn’t be. Oil and gas drillers conduct rigorous studies and seismic testing to make sure the drilling process disturbs ocean life as little as possible. In fact, the Obama Administration Bureau of Ocean Energy Management found that there is “no documented scientific evidence” of seismic surveys hurting marine animals. Offshore drilling is also safer than ever before these days as the industry has instituted more than 100 new regulations since 2010. Also, 99.9995% of all oil and gas produced in the U.S. reaches its destination safely.
Judge Gleason’s shaky legal ruling shouldn’t be reason to hold Americans back from reaping the full benefits of our natural resources. It’s time for the Trump Administration to step up and make offshore drilling expansion and total energy independence a reality.