Biden Administration’s “9,000 Permits” Claim Is Factually Incorrect
After the Biden administration claimed for months that the oil and gas industry was sitting on 9,000 unused permits to drill – and consequently, holding back domestic production – Politico reported that the “9,000 permits” figure is based on faulty data. Allegedly, the discrepancy was caused by issues with the Department of Interior’s record keeping, and the figure stands closer to 6,600 unused permits as of this month.
Ironically, the “9,000 unused permits” claim has been the backbone of the administration’s mixed messages towards the American energy industry for more than six months.
On March 8th, 2022, when the administration announced it was banning imports of Russian energy products, President Biden claimed the American oil and natural gas industry wasn’t doing as much as it could to increase domestic supply:
“They have 9,000 permits to drill now. They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved.”
The Biden administration continued to push this narrative throughout the summer as global fuel prices skyrocketed, leading to record high gas prices and inflation.
In November, the talking point was revived after the administration quietly outsourced oil drilling to Venezuela over the Thanksgiving holiday. In response to a question about why the administration was supporting foreign dictators’ efforts to drill and not domestic producers’, White House spokesperson John Kirby once again cited the 9,000-permit figure:
“The president has issued 9,000 permits for drilling on U.S. federal lands…9000 of them being unused. There are plenty of opportunities for oil and gas companies to drill here in the United States.”
While the administration relied on this statistic to convince Americans that it was industry, not misguided policy, to blame for high energy prices, Politico reported Monday that the DOI miscounted the available permits by almost a third.
In response to the correction, Western Energy Industry’s Kathleen Sgamma told Politico:
“That’s just hilarious after the White House tried to make hay about 9,000 supposed permits that industry hadn’t used as they scrambled to shift blame for high prices.”
But this statistic is still misleading, regardless of the number of approved permits to drill. The Biden administration leads the media and citizens to believe that because there are outstanding permits, the industry is simply choosing to not produce more energy. However, there are a variety of factors that determine if a well is both economical and feasible for production within a short time frame.
In order to bring oil to market, it can take months, or years, depending on the well’s reserves, existing infrastructure, and permitting hurdles. In many of the locations where there are unused approved permits to drill, there is either little or no pipeline infrastructure, unproven reserves, or local permits are held up in litigation. Domestic oil and natural gas producers are not sitting on permits and requesting more permits without reason; they understand where drilling in the short- and medium-term is possible and scalable.
Bottom line: The “9,000 permits” line has been the centerpiece of the Biden administration’s mixed messages towards the energy industry, and the fact that claim has been incorrect all this time is further evidence of the importance of working with the American oil and natural gas industry to address a historic energy crisis.