Commentary: Offshore development critical to U.S. energy future

May 1, 2018

As the leading oil-producing state in the country, Texas can see many of the real benefits of safe and responsible domestic energy exploration and development firsthand. Across the country, communities and consumers benefit from oil and natural gas produced in the United States and its continued role in our long-term energy and economic future. As we look ahead, however, it's important to remember that we consume more oil and gas than we produce - and that renewable energy will continue to grow, but still make up a small percentage of our overall energy production.

The reality is that we will rely on oil and natural gas for decades to come - and there are many benefits that will come along if production is able to increase in the U.S. rather than abroad. Unfortunately, the country is uniquely limited in its ability to harness all of its energy potential. With 94 percent of federal offshore acreage in the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS, off-limits, we are at a serious disadvantage with foreign nations that are moving forward with building energy reserves through offshore development, while also putting the future of our own energy security at risk.

Secretary Ryan Zinke's recently announced five-year National Offshore Leasing Program stands to change that. By opening up the OCS along the Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Arctic regions for exploration, we will have a much better understanding of what oil and natural gas resources are out there to develop. This process will take many years - and is an important first step in cementing our role as an energy and economic superpower for decades to come.

While Texas is already familiar with the economic and energy benefits of offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico, it has also touched many communities beyond the state. For more than 50 years, the operations here have been the backbone of the U.S. energy industry, and as a direct result, we have been able to lessen our energy dependency on foreign nations, bolster U.S. investments and jobs, and strengthen our national security. Tourism and recreation industries in the Gulf significantly increased jobs, wages and economic contributions from 2005 to 2014, according to Ocean Economics.

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