Fossil fuel production on federal lands drops

Fossil fuel production on U.S. federal lands took another dip during fiscal year 2012, even as energy production nationwide soared to a record high, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

During fiscal year 2012 — which ended last Sept. 30 and is the most recent period for which the agency’s  data is available– federal lands produced 17.1 quadrillion British thermal units of fossil fuel energy, the lowest level in at least a decade. That was a 3.7 percent decline from the year before.

In addition to a drop in coal production, federal-land fossil fuel output suffered from continuing declines in oil and natural gas production offshore, including the Gulf of Mexico.

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For most of the past decade, a third of the nation’s fossil fuel production has come from federal lands. But that share has fallen during the national shale boom, which has occurred largely on privately owned property.

During fiscal year 2012, less than 28 percent of domestic fossil fuel production was  on federal land.

Oil production on federal land was a hotly debated issue during the 2012 presidential election. In the fiscal year ending  in September 2008, federal lands produced 565 million barrels of oil. That rose during the first two years of the Obama administration, hitting 723 million barrels in fiscal year 2010, the highest level since at least 2003. But that growth has since reversed, falling to 596 million barrels in fiscal year 2012 — just slightly higher than 2008 production.

Federal-land production of natural gas plant liquids also has risen during that period, from 104 million barrels in fiscal year 2008 to 114 million barrels in fiscal year 2012. But coal and natural gas production has fallen. About 4.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was produced on federal lands in fiscal year 2012, a 30 percent drop from fiscal year 2008. And coal production fell 8 percent during that time, to 442 million tons.

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