Commentary: DOI’s Five Year Leasing Plan and the Obama Climate Agenda

Unlike the political tactic that the Obama Administration used to kill Keystone XL, President Obama won’t be able to slow walk the offshore leasing process until it is to his advantage to release it to bolster his image and legacy on climate change. The five-year leasing plan will probably get released around March of this year, one year after the comment period closed. The President cannot delay too long because a bad plan, which is likely to be what is released, will almost certainly face the prospect of a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Under the CRA, Congress has 60 legislative days to approve a Resolution of Disapproval, which the President can either sign or veto. President Obama will want to the leasing plan to be issued so that the 60 legislative days run out before January 21, 2017. Since this is a presidential election year, Congress will adjourn earlier than usual, which means fewer legislative days. Last year, the House was in session 132 days; for 2016 it has announced 111 days. The Senate days in session will be somewhat longer.

Given the President’s commitment to forge ahead with his climate campaign to suppress fossil fuel use and force significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it is a safe bet that the leasing plan will contain many restrictions, actions that, according to the Secretary of Interior, will protect sensitive environmental areas, and will exclude the most promising tracts.

For the foreseeable future the impact of this environmentalist driven leasing plan will not have a significant impact on energy supplies and prices. Oil companies have reduced their capital budgets because of the steep drop in oil prices and as they recover shale oil and gas deposits will be a major source of new supply because it is less expensive and more easily developed. But,offshore development is not about the near term or the foreseeable future. The leasing and development process is complex and can take 10-15 years to complete.

In considering offshore development and production, you have to think in terms of 2030 and beyond. No one can predict production levels or prices that far out. The one certainty is the world will still depend of oil and gas for electric power and transportation, in spite of the President’s ideology and climate change agenda. Actions taken here or around the globe to suppress fossil fuel use will either fail or result in continued severe poverty in the developing world, and slower economic growth globally.

Sometime in the future it will become even more obvious to politicians here and abroad that the climate change agenda is mostly about politics and concentration of political power, not about affecting our climate. More and more evidence accumulates that global temperatures are disconnected from CO2 emissions and that in fact CO2 is a needed nutrient; not a dangerous pollutant.

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