President Obama’s decision to suspend all offshore oil and gas drilling, even for wells that are already under way, would create a “moratorium on economic growth and job creation”, the industry association warned on Thursday.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic are the most promising regions in the US for oil development. They are the focus both for companies hoping to grow in a country that is much more welcoming to private sector investment than most oil-rich nations, and for American hopes of raising domestic production to curb dependence on foreign imports.

The US government’s Energy Information Administration predicted this month that domestic oil production could continue to rise until 2035, thanks largely to deep-water production in the Gulf.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said access to affordable energy was vital for the US economy and curbs on oil and production would hit growth and jobs.

“Deepwater development is a key component of domestic energy security. In 2007, deepwater provided 70 per cent of the oil and 36 per cent of the natural gas from overall federal Gulf of Mexico production,” he said. “ Additional moves to curtail domestic production by postponing exploration and development off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia, as well as areas in the Gulf, have the potential to significantly erode our energy and economic security.”

He urged the administration and Congress not to close off any areas that were already open for offshore oil and gas production, and to put in place a process and schedule for restarting drilling.

Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, warned recently that tighter restrictions on offshore drilling would cut oil production from the deep waters of the Gulf by up to 19 per cent in 2015 and 2016.

BP, which is the largest producer of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, had pinned much of its growth plans on further development in the region’s deep water. The delay to exploration in the Arctic is a problem for Royal Dutch Shell, which has invested billions of dollars in leases in the region, and had hoped to begin drilling this year.

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