Why aren't oil execs drilling in the U.S.?

Jerry McKinney (L) and Jeremy Beck work a drilling rig as they search for oil for Houston, Texas based Vintage Exploration in a corn field near Okawville, Illinois.

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Renita Jablonski: When one goes up, the other goes down.
Oil rallied towards $133 a barrel this morning on a weaker dollar. Also, there are concerns about stagnating production in Russia and other countries outside of OPEC.

This week in Congress, executives from big oil companies have been telling lawmakers the fastest way to reduce prices for oil and gas is to allow more oil drilling in the U.S. But as Marketplace's Bob Moon reports, oil companies aren't even tapping the domestic petroleum reserves they already have.


Moon: Oil execs spent the past couple of days claiming their hands are tied when it comes to drilling for more oil here at home, and it's up to Congress to change that.

Peter Robertson: Open up more federal lands and allow us to responsibly produce more American oil and natural gas.

Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson chided lawmakers for "limiting development without good reason."

But at the Center for American Progress, energy expert Daniel Weiss says those same execs have been making excuses for years that they can't keep up with the government drilling permits they already have. By some estimates, 75 to 80 percent of existing leases are untapped.

Daniel Weiss: Why would they want us to open up new areas if they don't even have the infrastructure capacity to explore and develop existing leases? I think it's about something more fundamental: greed.

Some lawmakers are pointing back at the oil companies, complaining they can sit on a lease for 30 years or more without producing a drop. All the while, the idle holdings can still be used to inflate their theoretical reserves -- and boost their stock prices.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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