NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 29, 2009

The United States imports about 66 percent of its oil; yet, Congress has done little to remedy the situation.  Instead, it has erected barriers to domestic energy production. Fortunately, the United States has vast quantities of oil in rocks, including oil shale, which can be converted into fuel.  In fact, we have 75 percent of the world's oil shale, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Unfortunately, due to radical environmentalists' sway over key Democratic lawmakers, this oil is off-limits to production.  But removing barriers would include auctioning public lands with oil shale for production and streamlining the permitting process, says Burnett:

  • Per acre, oil shale is significantly more concentrated than the oil and gas on Alaska's North Slope, Alberta's tar sand or ethanol production.
  • Indeed, some shale contains more than one million barrels of oil per acre.
  • By contrast, conventional oil fields yield about 10,000 barrels per acre, and Congress's preferred alternative to oil, ethanol from corn yields, contains the equivalent of 10 barrels per acre.

Moreover, developing America's domestic oil shale resources would also provide an economic boon to a flailing economy, says Burnett:

  • The RAND Corporation estimates that a three million bbl/day industry could generate $20 billion in annual profits while reducing prices for consumers.
  • In addition, oil shale development and production would create as many as 100,000 direct and indirect new jobs during the operation of just a two million bbl/day shale oil industry.

However, the Obama administration has already cancelled leases on several parcels of federal land that had been auctioned for oil shale production. It also halted the auction of others, says Burnett.

To further our national interests, Congress and the Obama administration should remove current barriers to oil shale production, suggests Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Developing shale oil may solve our energy crisis," Washington Examiner, July 29, 2009.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues