More U.S. gas drilling likelier than oil

Aug. 3, 2008 at 12:43 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Mostly overlooked in the debate about allowing more oil drilling in the United States is that the vast majority of new wells are for natural gas, analysts say.

Onshore energy leases in the western United States during the Bush administration have mostly gone to natural gas exploration. The average annual production of natural gas was 2.4 billion cubic feet from 2001 to 2007, up from an average of 1.8 billion cubic feet annually during the Clinton administration, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Oil produced from domestic onshore sources, meanwhile, declined. In the first six years of the Bush administration, average yearly domestic oil production was 97.9 million barrels annually, compared to 111.5 million barrels in the Clinton years.

The wellhead price of natural gas is about five times higher than it was in the 1990s, environmentalists say, providing evidence that more domestic production of oil and gas won't affect its price.

"We've turned our western lands into a pincushion and gasoline is $4 a gallon and the price of natural gas has gone through the roof," Dusty Horwitt, a senior analyst for public lands at the Environmental Working Group, told the newspaper.

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