A forgotten anniversary underscores importance of offshore access

Houston Chronicle | Randall Luthi | May 7, 2019

Six months ago an important offshore anniversary quietly slipped by seemingly forgotten. A decade ago, on October 1, 2008, a 27-year congressional moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the U.S. outer continental shelf expired.

In the summer of 2008, oil prices were edging above $100 a barrel and all across the United States drivers, truckers and politicians were clamoring for relief. That October, the Congress, led (ironically) by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, allowed the long-standing outer continental shelf moratorium to expire, effectively removing the prime barrier preventing the opening of more than 600 acres of federal coastal waters to oil and gas leasing and potential drilling as close as three miles to American shores.

A decade later, the energy picture has changed dramatically; without the outer continental shelf ever being re-opened. Technological innovations, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have revolutionized American energy production and fueled an onshore oil boom. Today, the Midwest and U.S. Gulf Coast are awash in domestic oil, exports are growing and the United States is the world’s leading oil producer.

While the onshore boom has altered oil supply and demand both domestically and globally, pockets of the U.S. remain far too reliant on foreign energy. California imported 57.5 percent of its crude oil from foreign sources in 2018, up from 48 percent in 2008 — all while billions of barrels of oil lay right off its own coast. Massachusetts is importing foreign liquefied natural gas, including LNG from Russia, while discoveries off of Senegal hint that the geologically similar U.S. Atlantic coast could hold greater energy resources than anticipated.

Read the full op-ed here.

Randall Luthi is president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).