Energy and Mineral Resources
Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Alan Lowenthal, ranking member (Calif.)
Jim Costa (Calif.)
Niki Tsongas (Mass.)
Matt Cartwright (Penn.)
Don Beyer (Va.)
Ruben Gallego (Ariz.)
From the abundant solar energy in the desert southwest to the wind that blows across the Great Plains, to the oil and gas deposits of the Gulf of Mexico, America's mineral and energy resources on public lands are a precious endowment.
The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources oversees these valuable public resources, ensuring they are developed in a safe and equitable manner and that U.S. taxpayers are properly compensated for their use.
Oil: Production and Consumption
Domestic oil production, measured in millions of barrels per day in the chart here, is at a 42-year high, while imports are at an 18-year low. Anyone who claims production is being kept too low isn't looking at the numbers.
As U.S. oil production has soared, U.S. oil consumption has decreased by more than two million barrels of oil per day since 2005, thanks in large measure to more fuel efficient cars. New fuel efficiency standards put in place by the Obama administration and agreed to by the auto industry are expected to further reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels of oil (two million barrels of oil a day by 2025), cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half, and save Americans more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.
There's more to do to make sure the oil industry is behaving responsibly. The independent commission set up to investigate BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill recommended that Congress pass reforms to strengthen offshore drilling safety and enforcement. These reforms are supported by Democrats and have been blocked by House Republicans.
Despite this roadblock, the Obama administration has tightened offshore safety standards and stepped up enforcement as drilling resumed and expanded in the Gulf of Mexico.
While public lands and waters have played a key role in the United States becoming the largest producer of natural gas in the world and the third largest oil producer, we are just beginning to realize the vast potential for harnessing the wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydro energy available on these lands. We must do so quickly. Our nation has just 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we consume nearly 25 percent of the world's oil. Innovation, efficiency and harnessing alternative sources of energy hold the key to energy independence. Responsible and balanced development of America's resources on public lands and waters will help increase American energy security today while also ensuring that these lands can be enjoyed by future generations of Americans.
There are some encouraging signs of rewable energy's economic and enviromental potential. 2014 was the solar energy industry's biggest installation year on record. As the media has noted, solar in 2014 "added nearly as many new megawatts to the grid as natural gas, which is quickly catching up on coal as the country’s primary energy source." There are three reasons for this increase, according to a recent analysis by GTM Research: "First, costs are falling, not just for the panels themselves but for ancillary expenses like installation and financing, such that overall prices fell by 10 percent compared to 2013. Second, falling costs have allowed both large utility companies and small third-party solar installers to pursue new ways to bring solar to customers, including leasing panels and improved on-site energy storage. Third, federal incentives and regulations have been relatively stable in the last few years, while state incentives are generally improving, particularly in states like California and Nevada that have been leading the charge."
Source: GTM Research
Moving Away From Oil and Coal
• Renewable energy sources generated 13 percent of U.S. power in 2014, up from 9 percent in 2008. Non-hydroelectric renewable generation has doubled in that period.
• Solar energy accounted for a record 32 percent of all new electricity generation capacity in 2014. There is now enough solar capacity to power more than 3.5 million American homes.
• Wind energy generated enough electricity in 2014 to power more than 18 million American homes.
• Renewable energy sources have become cheaper as they have expanded. The cost of wind energy has fallen more than 40 percent since 2008, while the average cost of a solar panel has dropped by more 60 percent just since 2010.
• America is using more natural gas as domestic production has skyrocketed and prices have fallen. Natural gas generated 27 percent of U.S. electricity in 2014, up 6 percent since 2008.
Creating Jobs That Don't Pollute
• Renewable energy provided 612,000 jobs in 2014. More than 235,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs have been announced in the past 3 years alone. Wages in these and other green jobs are 13 percent higher than median wages in the U.S.
• The solar industry added 31,000 jobs in 2014, creating jobs at nearly 20 times the national average. Solar now employs 174,000 American workers. California leads the way with 55,000 solar workers, followed by Massachusetts with 9,400 workers. Twenty states employ at least 2,000 people in the solar industry.
• The wind energy industry by the end of 2013 supported 50,500 full-time U.S. jobs that directly involve wind energy projects and manufacturing. That’s down significantly from 2012, when the industry provided more than 80,000 full time jobs. The big difference: the Congressional Republican move to kill the Production Tax Credit, which has been critical to wind energy’s development. Among states, Texas has the most wind energy jobs with more than 8,000, followed by Iowa, California, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, Oregon, and New York.
• The Department of the Interior has approved 52 utility-scale renewable energy and associated transmission projects on public lands since 2009. If built to specifications, these projects will provide 14,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 4.8 million homes, and will create more than 21,000 jobs. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan calls on DOI to boost renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 10,000 megawatts by 2020.
• DOI in January 2015 held its fourth competitive lease sale for offshore wind energy development, leasing more than 354,000 new acres. These new leases doubled the amount of competitively leased acreage for wind energy development in the Atlantic. The Department plans to hold another wind energy lease sale off of New Jersey later in 2015.
Mining and Drilling on Public Lands: Not Enough Taxpayer Return
The outdated General Mining Act of 1872 allows mining companies—many of them foreign owned—to take billions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver and other hardrock minerals from America’s public lands every year without paying royalties to the American people or telling public officials what they're extracting. Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has introduced legislation that would end this hardrock handout and generate several hundred million dollars a year in royalties for the American people.
The U.S. royalty rate for oil and gas is far lower than what other countries collect, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and for some offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, oil and gas companies pay no royalties at all. House Republicans have rejected Democratic legislation to renegotiate these royalty-free leases, which over the next 25 years will cost more than $50 billion in lost compensation to the American people, according to GAO.
Fracking: A Regulatory Patchwork
Of the more than 3,000 new wells drilled each year on federal land, roughly 90 percent employ hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is now governed by a patchwork of state laws that vary widely in their requirements and enforcement. Democrats support the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to develop new baseline standards for safe and responsible fracking on public land. House Republicans are fighting to preserve the existing, inadequate patchwork.
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