Our Vast Energy Reserves, Obama Notwithstanding

Mr. Obama repeatedly insists that the United States has “2% of the world’s oil reserves, but uses 20% of the world’s oil supply.” This is an ignorant, and/or deliberately mendacious claim.

From a primer (hat tip Janet Levy) by the Institute for Energy Research, with references, below:


  • In 2011, the United States produced 23.0 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,[1] making it the world’s largest natural gas producer. [2]
  • In 2011, the United States produced 5.67 million barrels of oil per day, making it the world’s third largest oil producer. [3]
  • Proved conventional oil reserves worldwide more than doubled from 642 billion barrels in 1980 to more than 1.3 trillion barrels in 2009. [4]
  • The United States is home to the richest oil shale deposits in the world—estimates are there are about 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil in U.S. oil shale deposits, nearly four times that of Saudi Arabia’s proved oil reserves. [5]
  • The United States has 261 billion tons of coal in its proved coal reserves. These are the world’s largest coal reserves and over 27 percent of the world’s proved coal reserves. [6 ]
  • The United States produces nearly 1.1 billion short tons of coal a year, making it the world’s second largest coal producer. [7] China produces over 3.5 billion short tons a year.
  • The United States has 486 billion tons of coal in its demonstrated reserve base, enough domestic coal to use for the next 485 years at current rates of consumption. These estimates do not include Alaska’s coal resources, which according to government estimates, are larger than those in the lower 48 states. [8]
  • The federal government leases less than 3 percent of federal lands for oil and natural gas production—2.2 percent of federal offshore areas [9] and less than 5.4 percent of federal onshore lands. [10]
  • The world could hold more than 700 quadrillion (700,000 trillion) cubic feet of methane hydrates—more energy than all other fossil fuels combined. [11]



[1] Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Table 4.1, http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec4_3. pdf

[2] BP, Statistical Review of Energy 2011, p. 22, http://www.bp.com/assets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/ reports_and_publications/statistical_energy_review_2011/STAGING/local_assets/pdf/statistical_review_of_world_energy_full_ report_2011.pdf

[3] Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Table 3.1, http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec3_3. pdf

[4] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics: Crude Oil Proved Reserves, http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/cfapps/ ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=5&pid=57&aid=6&cid=regions&syid=1980&eyid=2010&unit=BB.

[5] Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels, Development of America’s Strategic Unconventional Fuels Resources—Initial Report to the President and the Congress of the United States (Sept. 2006), p. 5, http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/ reserves/npr/publications/sec369h_report_epact.pdf; US Geological Survey, Oil Shale and Nahcolite Resources of the Piceance Basin, Colorado p. 1, Oct. 2010, http://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-069/dds-069-y/. The Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels estimated that U.S. oil shale resources were 2.1 trillion barrels. In 2010, the USGS estimated that in-place resources in the Piceance Basin were 50 percent larger than previously estimated (1.5 trillion barrels versus 1.0 trillion barrels). The addition of these 0.5 trillion barrels makes U.S. in-place oil shale resources a total of 2.6 trillion barrels. Previous estimates put the total economically recoverable oil shale resources at 800 billion barrels. Assuming the same rate of recovery for these additional 0.5 trillion barrels brings the total recoverable resources to 982 billion barrels of oil resources.

[6] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics, http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3. cfm?tid=1&pid=7&aid=6

[7] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics-Coal-Production, http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/ iedindex3.cfm?tid=1&pid=7&aid=1&cid=regions&syid=2000&eyid=2010&unit=TST.

[8] Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2010, Table 4.11, http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/ sec4_23.pdf a U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Coal Geology, Resources, and Coalbed Methane Potential, Nov. 2005, http:// pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-077/.

[9] See Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Offshore Energy and Minerals Management, http://www.boemre.gov/offshore/. According to the administration’s website, the outer continental shelf is 1.76 billion acres (http://www.boemre.gov/ld/PDFs/GreenBook-LeasingDocument.pdf page 1) and only 38 million acres are leased (Department of Interior, Oil and Gas Lease Utilization – Onshore and Offshore, http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader. cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=239255 page 4). That is a mere 2.16% of the entire Outer Continental Shelf.

[10] According to the Department of Interior, 38 million acres of onshore lands are leased for oil and natural gas production. See Table H A R D F A C T S : A N E N E R G Y P R I M E R 4

3 in Department of Interior, Oil and Gas Lease Utilization – Onshore and Offshore, http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader. cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=239255 According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government owns just over 650 million acres of land. See Appendix A. Congressional Research Service, Major Federal Land Management Agencies: Management of Our Nation’s Lands and Resources, May 15, 1995, http://www.ncseonline.org/nle/crsreports/natural/ nrgen-3.cfm. The federal government also controls an additional 58 million acres of federal mineral estate below privately owned surface estate. See Bureau of Land Management, Split Estate, http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wo/MINERALS__ REALTY__AND_RESOURCE_PROTECTION_/bmps.Par.98100.File.dat/SplitEstate08finalWeb.pdf.

[11] U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Gas Hydrates-Vast Resource, Uncertain Future, http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs021-01/fs021-01. pdf and Department of Interior, Gas Hydrates on Alaska’s North Slope Hold One of Nation’s Largest Deposits of Technically Recoverable Natural Gas , Nov.12, 2008, http://www.doi.gov/archive/news/08_News_Releases/111208.html.


Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

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