Access to drilling could create 160,000 new jobs by 2030, trade official says

Giving the oil and gas industry access to onshore and offshore resources now kept off-limits by the federal government would allow for the creation of 160,000 jobs by 2030, an American Petroleum Institute official says.

Denise McCourt, industry relations director with the trade group, says oil and gas development is important to the nation’s economy and energy security, but federal policies fail to recognize that.

Generally, the government’s focus has been on renewable energy such as wind and solar.

“They don’t talk about the real jobs we have right now,” said McCourt, who spoke in Grand Junction on Wednesday and Rifle on Thursday.

A new study commissioned by the API found that the U.S. oil and gas industry is responsible for 9.2 million jobs and contributes $1 trillion to the gross domestic product, or 7.5 percent of the total, McCourt said.

It created 2 million new jobs between 2004-07.

“We’re facing some tough times right now. We think as we go forward in the future we can replicate this again,” she said.

But she said access to resources has been frustrated, such as by a ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which Congress would have to reverse, and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, where the industry is waiting for the Department of Interior to come out with rules that may allow drilling in some small areas, McCourt said.

“These are tough stories to tell because what it’s saying is that our federal government is still not supportive of the domestic search for oil and natural gas,” McCourt said.

In November, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar answered industry trade group criticism that he and the Obama administration have hindered drilling through their oil and gas leasing policies.

Salazar said his department has a robust leasing program, but one that better balances oil and gas development and other public interests.

McCourt said lack of access may force the United States to look to other countries for energy while it still has domestic resources.

Bill Dvorak, a Western Slope representative for the National Wildlife Federation, said companies are developing only about 30 percent of what they already have leased from the government.

“It seems foolish to me to lease out more land when they’re not doing anything with what they already have,” he said.

He said it makes more sense for the nation to focus on job creation in renewable energy rather than fossil fuels that will run out soon.


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