US oil industry chief calls for more offshore access

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WASHINGTON: The US oil industry’s main lobbyist called Wednesday for expanded offshore oil and gas production, delivering a plea for deregulation two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

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American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said the United States should relax the “regulatory onslaught” the energy industry has seen in recent years —a comment that closely echoes Trump’s position.

“Today, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage is off limits to energy production,” Gerard said in prepared remarks at an annual event to outline the state of the industry.

“Restricted offshore areas could hold 50 billion barrels, or more, of oil and more than 195 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.”

The remarks came two weeks after President Barack Obama banned new offshore oil and gas drilling on more than 100 million acres (40.5 million hectares) of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic Ocean, a move that coincided with a similar freeze by Canadian authorities.

Trump sympathetic
In decisions welcomed by industry, Trump has picked prominent figures and allies of the oil and gas industries to fill his new administration, including former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to head the State Department, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry for the Energy Department,.

Trump also has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General and climate change-denier Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and made the oil investor Carl Icahn a special advisor to overhaul US regulations.

Gerard said an election-night poll found broad majorities of Democrats and Republicans favored greater domestic energy production and refining.

“We know we need more energy but we haven’t seen any meaningful expansion of offshore access in decades,” Gerard said.

Noting that US states are the main regulators of the petroleum industry, Gerard pointed in particular to federal rules on curbing methane emissions from oil and gas facilities, a problem he said producers were tackling on their own.

“For whatever reason, the government has chosen to come in and regulate an activity that we’re demonstrating is improving on a day-to-day basis,” he told reporters at a press conference following his speech.

Gerard said the fate of US adherence to the 2015 Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions should be left to the authorities but he hailed what he said were American advances in reducing carbon emissions in producing electricity.

He cited US Energy Information Administration figures showing that in the first half of 2016 the use of natural gas in power generation had resulted in the lowest level of carbon emissions in 25 years despite rising demand.

AFP

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