Drill here, Sell there?


Oil rig in Wyoming

courtesy of BLM

Booming oil drilling in North Dakota and the rest of the nation has led to a new startling fact: We are now shipping more American oil than at any time since 2001.

This is not great environmental news.

In February 2013, US exports of crude oil – oil drilled and pumped here in the US – nearly doubled to 124,000 barrels per day. This is most American oil that has been shipped overseas since 2001. Much of the increase is credited to the drilling boom in North Dakota’s Bakken region.

That number will likely increase, especially after news broke that underneath the already oil-soaked Bakken formation, there is even more oil in the recently-analyzed Three Forks formation. Almost of all of the drilling in the region is on private lands.

So we know that drilling on private lands is booming, but what about our wild public lands? Some Members of Congress are determined to drill on lands owned by all Americans, regardless of the fact that oil companies are recognizing that the oil is on private lands. The companies are going to where the oil is. However, Congress is determined to force more energy production on federal lands. Bills were introduced in the previous Congress to force drilling on public lands, and they may be introduced again.

Furthermore, a House committee recently passed a bill to expedite construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean more of the Bakken oil will go to international markets, not keep it in the US.

More troubling is the effect that increased drilling would have America’s environment, especially on federal wild lands. Outdoor recreation like hiking, camping, and fishing is a huge boon to the economy – generating more than $646 billion dollars every year. Meanwhile, despite constant claims from the oil industry and their allies in Congress, oil and gas drilling has a minimal effect on the economy.

Increasing drilling in the US won’t lower gas prices, or make America “energy independent” – apparently it will just mean more oil for other countries.