During the previous 12 months, many in the oil and gas industry have been faced with challenges. Tenuous economic realities, coupled with a dramatic fluctuation of commodity prices, have left the A&D market wondering which way is up. As we look for our own way to add stability to our ventures, a common theme quickly emerges: How can I do more work for less money? How can I stretch my return on investment?

Our industry, providing the fuel required to grow and heal America's steadfast industrial leadership, is no stranger to the need for judicious use of our resources. We strive to make the most out of all our efforts: seismic to peer into the Earth, ingenious drilling technology to extend the reach of each well, and the use of modern technology to amass and focus the ever-increasing flow of data from our production.

Compelled by the situation our country faces, we must capitalize on what we do best: innovate and perform. Innovation, as it always has, will provide new tools and technologies. Our performance, using this advanced technology, will maximize the reward of our investments and national assets.

Federal minerals. The U.S. government has a long history of involvement and management of the myriad resources belonging to our country. Tracing a heritage back to the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the U.S. government has served a critical role in the management and allocation for production of tracts of public lands and mineral rights. The authority to utilize, where appropriate, resources garnered from the land acquisitions of the 19th century, was first defined by Congress in the late 19th century, placing the utilization of public land assets under the control of the executive branch. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 followed, allowing leasing, exploration and production of certain resources, including oil and natural gas on public lands.

Further advancing our country's effort to better manage our natural resources, the Bureau of Land Management was formed within the Department of the Interior in 1946. During the next 30 years, the BLM worked under many conflicting and ambiguous legislative directives until Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

This legislation resolved the BLM to the management of more than 700 million acres of subsurface mineral assets, found primarily in the western continental U.S. and Alaska. A small fraction of these assets have been leased for oil and gas exploration by the government to U.S. citizens over the years at a significant value. In 2007, for instance, the BLM's onshore mineral-leasing activities generated an estimated $4.5 billion.

Online bidding. Our individual efforts toward careful use of resources are each a link in the nationwide stretch to do more with less and get the most from our assets. The BLM, in an effort to overcome the same challenges we face in the private sector, is investigating technology to get the most return for the BLM’s oil and gas leasing program. Congress, as a part of the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, directed that the BLM pilot an Internet lease auction for the federal oil and gas leasing program to evaluate its performance in relation to the traditional oral auction noted by the original legislation from the 1980s.

EnergyNet.com Inc. was awarded the contract to develop and host the Oil and Gas Lease Internet Auction Pilot as a result of a public solicitation for an appropriate contractor.

The BLM, a central and fundamental agency in our national organization, is no stranger to the changing requirements of our time. As we each tighten our belt and look for ways to make more from less, the BLM is leading the effort to find ways to use our American innovation and appetite for technology to reach out further to the leasing public and to develop an enhanced, online leasing system for potential use in the future.

Challenges and the need for relentless development have been the impetus of American growth for more than 200 years. As we delve further into an information-based age, the need for online services, both private and public, increases day by day and year by year.

Each Congress, each administration, each company and each individual—we all have a role to fill in today’s competitive environment. We must take inspiration from our progress, our technology, and our information resources by looking for efficacy and transparency and, like the BLM, we each can make the most of the tremendous resources America has to offer.

--Bill Britain

About the author: Bill Britain is co-founder, president and chief executive of EnergyNet Inc. the continuous online oil and gas property marketplace. He received his bachelor’s in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1972 and served in the U.S. Army for five years, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and retiring from his commission as Captain of the Infantry in 1977. He co-founded J-Brex, an E&P company in 1987, a Midcontinent operator. He can be reached at Bill.Britain@energynet.com and 806-351-2953.