NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Despite Terrorism, Many U.s. Resources Remain Out Of Bounds

May 3, 2002

At a time when the U.S. is fighting a life-or-death struggle against terrorism, the federal government has locked away valuable oil deposits -- in favor of a policy of buying oil from our adversaries. Other resources have similarly been placed off-limits.

  • The federal government has sealed away from oil exploration and production a larger area than all the land in the eight states bordering the Great Lakes.
  • More than 450 million acres have been set aside under stringent land-use regulations by federal mandate.
  • A 1995 federal assessment indicated there were 47.2 billion barrels of oil and 381.3 trillion cubic feet of gas beneath off-limits and heavily-restricted U.S. lands.
  • That amounts to nearly as much oil as we would import from Iraq in 100 years.

Experts assert those assessments are old and certainly too low. Oil reserves in Alaska alone are thought to be three times the amounts estimated just three years ago. If the ratio were applied to the rest of the off-limits and restricted land across the country, there could be nearly 150 billion barrels of oil that can't be secured. That's the equivalent of three centuries' worth of imports from Saudi Arabia, or 150 years' worth from the Persian Gulf -- not a particularly stable region.

Source: Editorial, "The Public's Land?" Investor's Business Daily, May 2, 2002.


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