Contemplate this the next time you spend $60 or more filling up your tinny little car with gasoline made from imported oil: The U.S. government knows where it can get its hands on more untapped petroleum than exists in the proven reserves of Iran or Iraq, which have 136 billion barrels and 115 billion barrels, respectively.
This unexploited stock of crude is greater than what the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports is in the proven reserves of Russia (60 billion barrels), Libya (41.5 billion barrels) and Nigeria (36.2 billion barrels) combined.
It is more than Hugo Chavez's Venezuela has (80 billion barrels).
It is more than is now known to sit beneath the waters and sands of Kuwait (101.5 billion barrels) or the United Arab Emirates (97.6 billion barrels).
So, where is all this oil? And why aren't they pumping it?
What cartel is holding it off the market, to drive up prices at American gas stations and American supermarkets? What insidious power is stifling the free market for this vital commodity and thus threatening the vitality of our economy?
It is us, of course. We are the culprits. We are responsible for artificially increasing oil prices. It is our oil that sits untapped beneath our deserts, our forests, our swamps and our oceans. It is our politicians -- the ones we freely elected, and re-elected, and re-elected -- who are not allowing our oil to be drilled by us and sold to us.
In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, requiring the Department of Interior to inventory the oil resources that could be found both onshore and offshore in U.S. territory. In February 2006, Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) published the report on offshore oil resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). It determined there were 85.9 billion barrels of "undiscovered technically recoverable" oil sitting off our beaches.
Just this offshore portion of our undiscovered oil is more than all the proven oil in Venezuela, and more than all the proven oil in Russia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain combined.
What does the government mean when it says this oil is "undiscovered technically recoverable" oil? It means we can go get it with off-the-shelf technology, but the government makes no judgment about the profitability of doing so. This oil, the government says, is "in undiscovered accumulations analogous to those in existing fields producible with current recovery technology and efficiency, but without any consideration of economic viability."