An industry group predicts that by 2020 the West will produce more energy than the United States imports from Saudi Arabia and seven other oil-producing nations.
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However, the report tempers that optimistic prediction with the view that energy production could be jeopardized by current and future federal government policies.
The Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity was prepared for the Western Energy Alliance industry group by EIS Solutions, with data analysis by ICF International.
It says that within nine years the combined energy production would exceed total U.S. imports from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela and Columbia.
According to the report, the West is on track to produce 1.3 million barrels of domestic oil and condensate a day by 2020, and has the potential to produce 6.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, up 1 trillion cubic feet from 2010.
While some contend the huge natural gas projections used by the industry are overblown to the point of being a ‘fool’s gold rush,’ the industry says it bases future production estimates on sound calculations of current plays around the country.
Colorado and Wyoming are expected to see combined oil and condensate production of 286,000 barrels a day by 2020 from the Niobrara geological formation, compared to negligible production last year.
Government red tape from federal regulators and seemingly never-ending lawsuits are what could hamper production.
The report lists several corrective actions, some of which are bound to raise the ire of environmental groups who oppose major expansions of natural gas drilling, especially on public lands.
The Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity calls for comprehensive reform of the federal onshore leasing and oil and gas development process, a moratorium on new regulations, limits on lawsuits, and rejection of any attempts to supplant state with federal oversight of the ubiquitous process of hydraulic fracturing.
“Energy producers on Colorado’s West Slope have grave concerns that burdensome federal regulations will actually prevent these predictions from coming to fruition,” said David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
“The West Slope is supplying an increasing amount of America’s energy with a smaller environmental footprint, but misguided government action is preventing achievement of the area’s full energy potential.”