"At crude oil prices of $100 per barrel, the value of the oil that might be recovered from federally owned land is over $60 trillion," Bartis said in written testimony. "The public wealth embedded in our oil shale lands is staggering."
The current national debt -- staggering in itself -- is about $15.6 trillion, or a little more than one fourth of the $60 trillion that Bartis said might be derived from federally owned shale-oil deposits.
But how do these oil lands compare in size to a Ritz-Carlton Hotel? Bartis mentioned what he called "the geographic concentration of this vast resource."
"Most of the high value resources lie within in a very small area (roughly 30 by 35 miles) within Colorado's Piceance Basin and within a small portion of the nearby Uinta Basin within Utah," he said.
A map that GAO published with its testimony shows that the Piceance and the Uinta basins that Bartis mentions lie in an area of few roads that sits west of Meeker, Colo., north of Grand Junction, Colo., south of Vernal, Utah, and east of Price, Utah.
To be sure, as both Bartis and the GAO point out, developing the shale oil these lands hold will pose technical, environmental and social challenges.
In the meanwhile, you can expect many liberals in the federal government to treat the oil deposits in the Green River Formation the way F. Scott Fitzgerald's villainous family in "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" treated their family jewel. They will want to keep it as secret as possible and develop it as little as they can.
They, too, will seek to maintain an artificial scarcity. And the longer they do, the sooner you will be riding mass transit.
In any event, as the late economist Julian Simon might have pointed out, history is again proving the environmentalist ideologues wrong. The physical resources God gave us are not limited in any practical sense. And you do not need to trek to the Western deserts to see that. You can simply look to the sky tonight and see sun after sun burning with an energy that a free and energetic people might someday tap.
And, for now at least, even the man in the White House says he is for solar power.