NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oil Production: United States Is Capable of Out-Producing World

May 17, 2012

President Obama has repeatedly asserted that the United States cannot drill its way to energy independence.  This claim has been used as justification for extensive and costly efforts to develop renewable energy sources, says Investor's Business Daily.

However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undermines the president's assumption.  Focusing on the Green River Formation in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, GAO Director of Natural Resources and Environment Anu Mittal told Congress recently that just one small part of the United States is capable of out-producing the rest of the planet.

  • The Green River Formation has been dubbed America's Persia on the Plains -- an area with recoverable oil in an amount estimated at four times the proven resources of Saudi Arabia.
  • Given the current U.S. daily oil consumption of 19.5 million barrels, the staggering amount of Green River reserves would by itself supply domestic oil consumption for more than 200 years.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil.
  • The Rand Corporation estimates that 30 percent to 60 percent of this oil can be recovered.

This discovery undermines the president's oft-repeated claim that the United States contains only 2 percent of the world's proven reserves.  Simultaneously, it begs the question as to why the federal government is doing its best to restrict the development of this government resource and create an artificial choke on fossil fuels.

Indeed, actions by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama himself seem bent on making domestic oil production as difficult as possible.

  • Seventy-two percent of the oil shale within the Green River Formation lies beneath federal lands managed by BLM, meaning that the government holds the reins to the oil's extraction.
  • Ninety-four percent of federal onshore lands and 97 percent of federal offshore lands are off-limits to oil and gas drilling.
  • In fact, the Obama administration recently rescinded 77 oil and gas leases in Utah.

Source: "GAO to Obama: More Oil than Rest of the World," Investor's Business Daily, May 14, 2012.  Anu K. Mittal, "Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Opportunities and Challenges of Oil Shale Development," Government Accountability Office, May 10, 2012.

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