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The United States is Swimming In Fossil Fuels

But our government won't let us get at them.

By Will Offensicht  |  September 25, 2009

On April 10, 2008, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published an article "3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana's Bakken Formation - 25 Times More Than 1995 Estimate" which reported:

A U.S. Geological Survey assessment, released April 10, shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered compared to the agency's 1995 estimate of 151 million barrels of oil.

Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices.  USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources.

New geologic models applied to the Bakken Formation, advances in drilling and production technologies, and recent oil discoveries have resulted in these substantially larger technically recoverable oil volumes.  About 105 million barrels of oil were produced from the Bakken Formation by the end of 2007.

The USGS analyzed only a small part of the Bakken rock formation; they ignored the part of it that extends up into Canada because that's not ours, though of course the Canadians would be happy to sell us whatever oil it contains.  Just the US part of the Bakken has enough oil to entirely replace one years' worth of imports. Drilling it certainly wouldn't solve all our petroleum problems, but finding a year's worth of imports would buy us some useful time.

The article has links to a more detailed assessment of the oil deposit along with a podcast of an interview with the scientists who analyzed the rock formation.  And what the scientists had to say is worthy of some deep thought, not just for the good news about the Bakken itself, but for its further implications about American oil resources.

For many years, even Big Oil had considered the continental US to be fully explored.  As a result, America's point of "peak oil" has long been thought passed; existing American wells would slowly trickle out and die one by one, each year producing less and less with no hope of finding any more.

It appears that new technology has made a lot more oil accessible that was previously unfindable or irretrievable.  The USGS has a "National Oil and Gas Assessment" map which shows where they think oil might be found or where it has already been found.  According to this official government map, the USGS believes that there are 16.6 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas in the Powder River Basin and shows recoverable oil and gas in many other locations.

The Economist reports that enough shale gas has been discovered to supply America for 90 years.  The Wall Street Journal goes further, saying:

According to the authoritative Potential Gas Committee (administered by the Colorado School of Mines), the U.S. sits on top of massive reservoirs of natural gas-an estimated 2,000 trillion cubic feet-that contain more energy than all the oil in Saudi Arabia.

It seems that we have a great deal of accessible fossil fuel in the continental United States.  Why are we talking so much about offshore drilling - as useful as that might be?  More particularly, why are we continuing to buy so much oil from odious enemy regimes in the Middle East when we can perfectly well supply ourselves right here at home?

It appears that last summer's slogan of "Drill Here, Drill Now" was even more appropriate than we realized at the time.