3 MIN READ - A submission from the Cautious Optimism Correspondent at Large for Economic Affairs (and other egghead stuff)
As CO recently reported, US oil output is on track to break records going back to 1970—thanks in no small part to the shale oil/fracking revolution that hit high gear in the Bakken and Eagle Ford (and now the Permian) just a few short years ago.
So it helps to reflect on former President Obama’s policy towards America’s largest-by-far shale oil resource: the Green River Formation that traverses the remote border intersection region of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. While the 2005 Rand study estimated Green River oil reserves at 800 billion barrels, a more recent USGS survey places estimates at 3 trillion barrels with half technically recoverable.
And although Green River shale oil is more resistant to current extraction methods than Bakken or Permian shale, its organic kerogen can be successfully converted to oil and gas with ExxonMobil and Total working on even more efficient production methods.
But to put that formation’s potential into perspective, the fertile Permian Basin’s reserves—which are driving huge gains in US oil production—are estimated at 20 billion barrels or roughly 1.3% the Green River’s recoverable reserves. Even Saudi Arabia’s entire oil reserves are estimated at only 268 billion barrels. Yes that’s right, America’s Rocky Mountains area contains five times more recoverable oil than Saudi Arabia. In fact, 1.5 trillion barrels is roughly equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.
However three quarters of the formation is on federal land and for the entire eight years of the Obama administration was off limits to surveys, exploration, testing, and production.
In fact in his first two weeks in office Obama’s first Interior Secretary Ken Salazar shut the door completely on Green River Formation investigation in favor of the administration’s heavy bets on wind and solar renewables that nearly all went bankrupt.
Ironically Salazar’s counsel Steve Black defended the administration’s shutdown of shale oil exploration on federal lands because...
“It’s an industry that is not ready for prime time”
...right on the cusp of the shale oil revolution.
Meanwhile Obama bet huge money on the alternative he lauded as ready for prime time—green energy—that went bust, taking tens of billions of tax dollars with it.
Could they all have played their cards any worse?
CO’s linked Investor’s Daily article criticizes former President Obama for mocking calls for greater US oil production and his counterclaim that...
“...the American people aren’t stupid.”
With shale oil set to break near 50-year US output records a few years later who looks stupid now?
The new Trump administration has shown it is much more open to leveraging all of America’s energy resources. Hopefully that includes allowing the industry to investigate the Green River Formation’s potential for development.
Read about Salazar's shutdown of the Green River Basin at
For a technical slideshow on America's shale oil go to...
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