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Government Report: America's Combined Energy Resources Largest on Earth
Far larger than those of Saudi Arabia, China, and Canada combined
March 11, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov

Government Report: America's Combined Energy Resources Largest on Earth

Far larger than those of Saudi Arabia, China, and Canada combined

Link to CRS Report: U.S. Fossil Fuels Resouces

Washington, D.C. - Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today released an updated government report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) showing America's combined recoverable oil, natural gas, and coal endowment is the largest on Earth.  America's recoverable resources are far larger than those of Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th), and Canada (6th) combined.  And that's not including America's immense oil shale and methane hydrates deposits.

Senator Murkowski: "It comes as no surprise that we are once again estimated to have the largest conventional energy resource endowment on Earth. As we debate ways to reduce gas prices and provide relief to American families and businesses, this report should be required reading for every member of Congress.  For the sake of our national security, our economy, and the world's environment, we need to explore and develop more of our own resources."

Senator Inhofe: "The Obama Administration has made a conscious policy choice to raise energy prices, accomplished in good measure by restricting access to domestic energy supplies.  Those supplies are, according to the Congressional Research Service, the largest on Earth.  We could help bring affordable energy to consumers, create new jobs, and grow the economy if the Obama Administration would simply get out of the way so America can realize its true energy potential."

Here's what CRS says about America's tremendous resource base:

Oil

CRS offers a more accurate reflection of America's substantial oil resources.  While America is often depicted as possessing just 2 or 3 percent of the world's oil - a figure which narrowly relies on America's proven reserves of just 28 billion barrels - CRS has compiled US government estimates which show that America, the world's third-largest oil producer, is endowed with 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil.  That's enough oil to maintain America's current rates of production and replace imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years.  

Natural Gas

Further, CRS notes the 2009 assessment from the Potential Gas Committee, which estimates America's future supply of natural gas is 2,047 trillion cubic feet (TCF) - an increase of more than 25 percent just since the Committee's 2006 estimate.  At today's rate of use, this is enough natural gas to meet American demand for 90 years.

Coal

The report also shows that America is number one in coal resources, accounting for more than 28 percent of the world's coal.  Russia, China, and India are in a distant 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively. In fact, CRS cites America's recoverable coal reserves to be 262 billion short tons. For perspective, the US consumes just 1.2 billion short tons of coal per year.  And though portions of this resource may not be accessible or economically recoverable today, these estimates could ultimately prove to be conservative.  As CRS states: "...U.S. coal resource estimates do not include some potentially massive deposits of coal that exist in northwestern Alaska.  These currently inaccessible coal deposits have been estimated to be more than 3,200 billion short tons of coal."    

Oil Shale 

While several pilot projects are underway to prove oil shale's future commercial viability, the Green River Formation located within Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah contains the equivalent of 6 trillion barrels of oil.  The Department of Energy estimates that, of this 6 trillion, approximately 1.38 trillion barrels are potentially recoverable.  That's equivalent to more than five times the conventional oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. 

Methane Hydrates

Although not yet commercially feasible, methane hydrates, according to the Department of Energy, possess energy content that is "immense ... possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels."  While estimates vary significantly, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently testified that: "the mean in-place gas hydrate resource for the entire United States is estimated to be 320,000 TCF of gas."  For perspective, if just 3% of this resource can be commercialized in the years ahead, at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would be enough to provide America's natural gas for more than 400 years.

Link to high quality chart: America's True Oil Potential

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