It is true that there are 68 million acres of leases. The size is because there are vast areas which have little or no oil, so the lease tracts are huge to give the potential for some oil to be found SOMEWHERE.
The leases are not production leases, they are exploration leases. But a lease being explored is not in production -- and that is what the Democrats mean when they say "not being used".
We expect generic Democratic messages to be lies. But it takes on special significance when the candidate for President, Barack Obama, is willing to include the lie in his speech. It is unfortunate that the NEWS ORGANIZATIONS of this country see no reason to actually provide FACTS to their readers.
From Obama's web site:
Meanwhile, the oil companies already own drilling rights to 68 million acres of federal lands, onshore and offshore, that they haven't touched. 68 million acres that have the potential to nearly double America's total oil production, and John McCain wants to give them more.
Here are the facts:
Wall Street Journal: “Companies don’t know how much oil is under the lands they lease, so they buy up large swaths in hope that a fraction will work out. Much of the area that isn’t producing, they say, doesn’t have oil or gas in commercially viable quantities. Moreover, bringing a new field into production can require years of mapping, testing, drilling and construction – during which time the land would show up in statistics as being ‘not in production,’ even as companies spend millions or even billions of dollars to bring it on line.” (6/16/08)
Get it? They aren't untouched. Most of the acres are useless. But on each lease, there is somewhere the companies are exploring, looking for a place where they can drill. It's hard, because just having a lease isn't enough, you need permits and regulatory approval for everything. The idea that oil companies spent money for leases just to watch them sit is stupid. However, there are some leases that they can't renew, and because they are going to lose them, there's little reason to continue exploring, since even if they DO find something, they'll lose the lease.
Further, these leases only allow exploration. If they find oil, they need to sign new leases for the production.
Geological Experts: “’There’s the misconception that every lease has oil,’ added David Curtiss, director of the [American Association of Petroleum Geologists’] Washington office. ‘A lease is a line on a map. It has nothing to do with the geology of where oil is.’” (CQ, 6/16/08)
The Democrats complaint is a twist on the old joke about the guy looking for his ring. He's crawling around at night under a light, and someone says "where did you drop it", and he says "over there", and you say "Why aren't you looking over there", and he says "I can't see over there, it's too dark".
IN this case, we know where there are billions of barrels of oil. So the Democrats make those off-limits, and then pick 68 million other acres of useless land, and say "Here, you can look for oil HERE if you want". Then they pretend those 68 million acres are just like 20+ million acres that were PRIME oil lands where we have wells, and say that we could double our production -- which is an absurd, and most likely false claim. We COULD double our production with the offshore sites, ANWR, and the shale oil.
Further, the Democrats are threatening to "take back the leases", but the law already requires the oil companies to produce on these leases within a period of time, or lose them:
“Oil companies with federal leases already have very defined time limits to produce oil or natural gas on existing leases. If the companies do not produce on those leases within the time limit, they will lose their lease.”
But if you search on "68 million acres oil lease", it's hard to find the truth. Instead, every news organization and blog has simply repeated the false claims of the democratic leadership. It's time the American people demanded better of our elected leaders. They should not be able to lie with impunity.
BTW, the speech had another part that was hilarious:
What we are seeing here – from the solar panels that power this facility to the Bombard workers who built it – is that a green, renewable energy economy isn't some pie-in-the-sky, far-off future, it is now. It is creating jobs, now. It is providing cheap alternatives to $140-a-barrel oil, now. And it can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act now.
FIrst of all, solar panels are not cheap. They are getting a bit cheaper, but they are by no means the cheap alternative, even for electric use. But the real mistake here is that solar panels don't provide an alternative, cheap or otherwise, to oil. Solar panels generate electricity. And in this country, we essentially have NO oil-burning electric plants anymore. We burn coal and natural gas, but not oil.
Until we have electric cars, solar panels will not be an "alternative" for oil use -- once we have electric cars, solar panels can be used to charge them, and the cars themselves will be an alternative to cars that burn oil.