While about 700 leases have sold for offshore oil and natural
gas exploration in Alaska since 2005, raising billions of
dollars for the federal government, not a single well has
been drilled to production depth, largely due to regulatory
obstacles created by the government.
High-interest areas like the Beaufort and Chukchi seas
historically have been offered for sale through area-wide
leasing. Area-wide leasing allows for the most complete
assessment of an area’s oil and natural gas potential and is the
approach followed in the Gulf of Mexico, which has yielded
billions of dollars in federal revenues and a significant share of
the nation’s energy production.
Targeted leasing, which can severely restrict the potential for
energy production, is typically used only in areas generating
little interest in energy development. More blocks are
typically leased through area-wide sales than targeted sales.
Area-wide leasing offers the government more revenue
potential, as well as information about subsea geology, while
ensuring strong environmental protection.
The largest lease sale in U.S. history, in terms of revenue raised
by the government, was a $2.6 billion area-wide Chukchi sale
in 2008. Even so, the Obama administration later cancelled
four other lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and
wants to restrict future sales through restrictive targeted
Policymakers need to embrace an “all-of-the-above” energy
approach that includes our offshore resources in Alaska to
create an energy plan for America that boosts, rather than
inhibits, our economy. The development of oil and
natural gas resources in Alaska’s OCS could produce almost
10 billion barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural
gas – supporting almost 55,000 new jobs and $145 billion
in new payroll nationally, as well as a total of $193 billion in
government revenue through the year 2057. Increased OCS
production in Alaska also would extend the operating life of
the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a critical
lifeline of domestic energy for America.