Oil and gas industry leaders lobbed criticism at the Obama administration Wednesday, using the stage of an annual industry conference in Houston to assert that the domestic energy boom has occurred in spite of what they call a corrosive energy strategy out of the White House.
Energy executives and other industry players took President Barack Obama to task during the Winter NAPE Conference, an annual expo of oil and gas prospects, technology exhibits and industry networking.
They said the White House has limited the availability of federal land for drilling and created an atmosphere of uncertainty over future regulations and taxes, reinforcing the nation’s tether to oil imports and keeping gasoline prices high.
“These have been the most difficult three years from a policy standpoint that I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Bruce Vincent, president of Houston-based oil and natural gas producer Swift Energy. “They’ve done nothing but restrict access and delay permitting.”
“The Obama administration, unfortunately, has threatened this industry at every turn.”
White House defense
But White House press secretary Jay Carney, discussing gasoline prices Wednesday, said Obama has “put in place policies that will dramatically expand the amount of exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, will expand the amount of exploration in Alaska, will expand the amount of natural gas production here in the United States.”
The Winter NAPE Conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center this week serves as a marketplace for buying, selling and trading land for oil and natural gas production.
More than 14,500 people pre-registered to attend, organizers said Wednesday, and an additional 2,000 were expected to sign up on-site. The conference, formerly called the North American Prospect Expo, also attracted about 1,000 exhibitors.
The convention’s theme for the day was “The Oil and Gas Supply Renaissance: Delivering on the Promise.” The U.S. has seen a surge in fossil fuel production in recent years, so intense that the nation is considering exporting its natural gas surplus. But some at the conference said the industry reached those milestones in spite of an oppressive energy policy.
Former Shell executive John Hofmeister said the nation has to adopt a more aggressive domestic drilling policy as developing countries like China demand more oil.
“The administration has done everything but support drilling,” he said. “We are on the verge of slipping into an energy abyss.”
Others criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s studies of hydraulic fracturing and voiced suspicions that the studies could lead to heavy federal regulations on the technique that has been central to the production boom.
Critics of the technology say it threatens water supplies and can trigger localized earthquakes.
“The science that has been used there is appalling,” said Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “The tone is to always cast the study as addressing environmental risk, though there is no evidence of systemic problems.”
Increased scrutiny has come as the rush to shale drilling has taken the industry to areas having little history with the oil patch. The traffic and environmental concerns that come with oil field activity have created consternation in some towns.
‘We have a frontier’
Robert Ryan, Chevron Corp.’s vice president of global exploration, said improved community relations and efforts to address the environmental concerns can ease the industry’s growing pains.
“What we can do better is to make sure we operate transparently,” he said. “We have a frontier here a little bit different than what we are used to. It’s up to us to cross it.”