Oil-funded study: More drilling would add 1 mln jobs

Wed Sep 7, 2011 2:00pm EDT

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* More oil, gas drilling could create 1.4 mln jobs-study

* Development could yield $800 bln in government revenue

* Key policies in study face uphill political battle

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The United States could create more than one million jobs by 2030 by expanding offshore drilling, limiting federal regulation of shale gas development and quickly approving a Canadian oil sands pipeline, according to a study commissioned by a major oil industry trade group.

The study's bottom line would depend on some major policy shifts by President Barack Obama and Congress, and comes just ahead of a key speech by Obama on his plan to boost U.S. employment as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing.

The study was conducted by consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, and paid for by the American Petroleum Institute, and the findings were released on Wednesday. The consultants found that 1.4 million new jobs could be created through more oil and natural gas development.

"Our new analysis is what our industry has to offer: jobs, increased federal revenue, economic and energy security. Our industry has long been a leader in these areas, but what we are here to say is we can do even more," API head Jack Gerard said on Wednesday at an event on Capitol Hill.

The urgency to address the employment situation has increased for lawmakers after a Labor Department report last week found that the economy did not create any new jobs in August. [ID:nOAT004865]

Gearing up for upcoming budget battles in Congress, oil and gas industry advocates have argued that the fossil fuels sector could be an engine for economic growth and should not become a target for more taxes or regulations.

In addition to creating jobs, the study said that expanding oil and gas production would generate more than $800 billion in additional government revenue by 2030 from taxes and drilling leases.

But for these outcomes to be realized, some politically difficult actions would need to be taken by Congress and the Obama administration.

For example, the report assumes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would become open to oil drilling, a move that would likely need Congressional support and is strongly opposed by many Democrats.

The job creation cited in the report would also depend on speeding up permits for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly approving TransCanada's (TRP.TO) Keystone XL pipeline, both politically sensitive issues which fall under the purview of the Obama administration.

The jobs scenario also depends on regulation of shale gas development remaining at the state level. Environmental critics of the hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" technique used to tap shale gas have called for more federal regulation of the practice.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed legislation aimed at increasing drilling permits in the Gulf and setting a firm deadline for making a decision on Keystone XL, which would transport Canadian oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf coast.

But these efforts have met resistance in the Democrat-controlled Senate and it's unclear what energy bills could get passed into law with the partisan gridlock in Congress.

Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, said that he plans to propose the opening of ANWR to the so-called "super committee" in Congress, which is supposed to focus on reducing budget deficits.

While opening ANWR has been a lightning rod in Congress in the past, he said he hopes to be able to gain support from Democrats on the select committee.

"Maybe with the price of oil where it is, the price of gasoline where it is, the national security aspects, maybe some of these members will have an epiphany," Hastings told reporters after delivering a speech at the energy jobs conference.

(Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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