Energy fuels our economic prosperity

08 11, 2014 by Lori LeBlanc/BIC Magazine

This summer, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management kicked off its two-year process for developing the next five-year plan for oil and gas lease sales in federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Managing lease activity from 2017-2022, the five-year lease plan is a golden opportunity for America to realize the economic prosperity energy production can bring to communities beyond the bustling Gulf of Mexico.

While shale plays across the country are getting well-deserved attention for contributing to America’s energy resurgence, the Gulf is still proving to be a powerful energy province. In fact, when it comes to offshore energy development managed by the existing 2012-2017 five-year plan, 87 percent of America’s offshore waters are currently off limits to drilling. Energy development is permitted in only 13 percent of federal waters, meaning much of the offshore energy activity and the economic benefits are focused in central Gulf Coast states.

Even with this limited production area, our nation is currently experiencing one of the highest energy production rates in recent history. Officials have estimated the U.S. now produces 84 percent of all energy it consumes, and production continues to rise as deepwater technology expands and companies continue to invest in deeper waters. Just 10 years ago, domestically produced energy met just 69 percent of American demand. Not since the 1950s has the U.S. come close to meeting its total energy consumption needs with solely domestic energy like what we are seeing today.

This production has translated into impressive job growth for communities that support energy development. While most of the country continues to struggle with jobless rates in a recovering economy, Louisiana boasts record job growth. According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana’s employment growth rate is expected to be 57-percent higher than the national rate through 2015. Houma, Louisiana, a hub for offshore energy service companies, continues to hold onto one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at around 2 percent.

Now is the perfect time to expand the economic success realized by states like Louisiana into other areas of the Gulf and throughout the country that have an appetite for the economic spark energy production brings. And by expanding drilling into new OCS waters, the next five-year plan could be a critical tool in securing America’s energy future.