NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unproven U.S. Oil Reserves Far Greater than Originally Thought

May 13, 2013

Advances in oil and gas extraction technologies are now allowing oil and gas companies to extract oil reserves that could not have been mined in the past. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has caused great concern amongst environmentalists who fear the new extraction technique pollutes local water supplies and harms the environment. New regulations and future job growth are just two of the benefits from U.S. oil and gas reserves, which are much greater than previously thought, says Amy Harder, an energy and environment correspondent with the National Journal.

  • The Department of Interior is preparing new regulations for hydraulic fracturing to ensure that growth in the industry does not harm the environment.
  • The industry is expected to grow for many decades as the proven reserves of America's shale gas formations continue to grow, notably in the Bakken and Three Forks shale formations stored deep under the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the two formations hold more than 7.4 billion barrels of oil and gas that is undiscovered, but could theoretically be extracted in the future.

The estimates of unproven reserves are good news for North Dakota, a state where much of the oil boom has occurred. Wages have more than doubled in counties where oil rigs have been drilled.

  • While the unproven reserves cannot be extracted easily, the reserves will encourage companies to develop more advanced technologies to extract the oil and gas.
  • The massive reserves will lead America to energy independence by 2033.
  • Foreign-oil imports are already down 40 percent from 25 years ago.

The Department of Interior regulations on hydraulic fracturing will place stricter controls on companies using water to extract the natural gas. While the regulations are only for fracking operations on federal lands, they could have important implications for fracking operations on private property.

  • Only 11 percent of the natural gas and 5 percent of the oil produced in the country is on public lands.
  • The new regulations should calm environmentalist's objections to fracking and bolster the long-term outlook for American energy independence.

Source: Amy Harder, "The U.S. Has Much, Much More Gas and Oil Than We Thought," National Journal, April 30, 2013.


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