Where is the oil hiding, besides offshore locations?

President Bush has lifted the executive moratorium on offshore oil development. Now it is up to Congress to decide whether to shift the decision on offshore drilling to state governments for state-by-state decisions. See Ben Feller’s story for the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of political heat generated over the “use-it-or-lose-it” bill proposed by the Democrats in Congress, who argue that offshore drilling shouldn’t be approved until known onshore reserve areas are explored. The bill won’t go anywhere, because Democrats don’t have enough votes to override a presidential veto. See Andrew Taylor’s story today for the Association Press.

So what about offshore versus onshore drilling?

President Bush’s Department of Interior released a report in May that says onshore public lands are estimated to contain 31 billion barrels of oil and 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. I can’t seem to find where the report spells out how many acres are in roadless areas or contain endangered species and so on, but it does say this:

  • Approximately 60 percent (165.9 million acres) of the federal land is inaccessible. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain about 62 percent of the oil (19.0 billion barrels) and 41 percent of the natural gas (94.5 trillion cubic feet).
  • Approximately 23 percent (65.2 million acres) of the federal land is accessible with restrictions on oil and gas operations beyond standard stipulations. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain 30 percent of the oil (9.3 billion barrels) and 49 percent of the gas (112.9 trillion cubic feet).
  • Approximately 17 percent of the federal land (48.0 million acres) is accessible under standard lease terms. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain 8 percent of the oil (2.3 billion barrels) and 10 percent of the gas (23.6 trillion cubic feet).

See the news release OR the report itself.

Meanwhile, the BLM yesterday announced its decision to open for exploration and development about 2.6 million acres of potential oil lands in northern Alaska. The “record of decision” puts off final conclusions about another 600,000 acres north of Teshekpuk Lake, which includes habitat for caribou and migrating birds.

Tom Lonnie, Alaska state director for the Bureau of Land Management, was quoted by Felicity Barringer of the New York Times as saying the decision will allow drilling in an areas that holds some 3.7 billion barrels of oil.

For a reference on the amount of oil these figures represent, the United States goes through about a billion barrels of oil in 50 days. See the Energy Information Administration.

One thought on “Where is the oil hiding, besides offshore locations?

  1. ‘…allow drilling in an areas that holds some 3.7 billion barrels of oil.

    … the United States goes through about a billion barrels of oil in 50 days…”

    Why is this a consideration? The cost to get the 3.7 billion barrels of oil would pay further solar and wind energy research to solve our energy dilemma.
    Sharon O’Hara

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