U.S. Policies Put Most U.S. Oil Off-Limits to Drilling
The report, which was produced at the request of Congress by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), said there are 279 million acres under federal management where oil and gas could potentially could be extracted. More than half of it is totally off-limits to drillers.
"The total onshore resource is 31 billion barrels," said BLM's lead scientist Richard Watson, who authored the report. "Of that, 19 billion barrels are currently inaccessible or 62%. A little over 2 billion barrels, or 8%, is accessible under what we call standard lease terms."
If you add in the 85.9 billion barrels of oil that lie offshore, as determined by the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, there are 117 billion barrels of oil on lands owned or managed by the U.S. government. But all expansion of offshore oil recovery is currently off-limits.
Adding in what's available on privately held land, the figure rises to 139 billion barrels of oil, according to the government - more than the known oil reserves of Iran, Iraq, Russia, Nigeria or Venezuela, respectively.
The biggest untapped land-based oil deposit in the United States lies within ANWR, the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, which is currently off-limits. "We estimate there is something on the order of 7.7 billion barrels in that one area alone," Watson said.
But setting aside Alaska, there is untapped oil on federal lands all across the United States, the government reported, with oil pockets found in Oregon, Washington state, Montana, Wyoming, Florida -- even in the Appalachian Mountains. "In the lower 48 states, there are about 12 billion barrels onshore," Watson noted.
(Map HT: Jack McHugh)