President Obama’s views on energy have always been defined by a sense of false scarcity. This is the man, after all, who told Oregon voters in 2008, “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times.”; who constantly invokes the fact that “the U.S. has only 2 percent of the world’s oil supplies” (an utterly misleading statistic that would be irrelevant even if it were literally true); who admitted to wanting the price of coal “to necessarily skyrocket”; and who hired an Energy Secretary who longs to see American gasoline prices reach the stratospheric levels of Europe.
Testifying before the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment last week, Anu Mittal, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the Government Accountability Office delivered some stunning news about the amount of oil shale available in the Mountain West.
Here’s how CNSNews reports the story:
“USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions,” Mittal testified.
“The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered,” Mittal told the subcommittee. “At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.”
Read that again. If less than half of this oil shale is recoverable, it still represents an amount equal to that available in the rest of the world. By extrapolation, that means that as future extraction methods become more technologically sophisticated (and more economical) we could be talking about a grand haul equal to more than double current global reserves. And that’s only in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — not in the other 47 states.
There are huge policy implications here because of the simple fact that most of this shale occurs on federal lands. That means that getting this material out of the ground will require a proactive effort from government. The current President — who likes to boast about record oil production without noting that the vast majority of it is coming from private land — is not the person to kick start this new era of energy abundance. One more reason to send him packing in November.