If we can get beyond the inevitable who-should-get-the-credit arguments, the record sale of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico is good news. The Houston region should benefit from some of the jobs added, while the country will get an added measure of energy security out of the expansion of drilling offshore.
The record bids, totaling $1.7 billion, went for leases on 454 tracts covering 2.4 million acres in waters as deep as 11,000 feet.
The highest single bid was made by Statoil, the Norwegian national company, for a tract in the Mississippi Canyon in the Central Gulf. Houston-based Shell Oil submitted the highest total of bids, $763.8 million for 24 tracts.
The squawking about who deserves the credit probably stems from the high-profile presence of Energy Secretary Ken Salazar at the announcement of the new leases and his assertion that it proves “the Gulf is back.”
Many in the oil industry have accused the Obama administration of slow-walking or blocking new activity in the Gulf since the BP spill in April 2010 that led to a moratorium on new drilling. We prefer to move forward. It’s done.
What’s ahead is a challenge to the industry to demonstrate its commitment to drill and produce in the Gulf while meeting stricter environmental standards in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. We agree with the assertion that this robust bidding for the Gulf leases offers evidence of the industry’s confidence in its ability to meet that challenge.
This lease sale should signal a new day in the Gulf of Mexico, characterized by a firm commitment to bring these vital resources to market safely and with utmost care for the Gulf’s fragile environment.