The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Potential vs. Energy Limitations

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 12, 2012

Think about how a new IEA projection  – that our vast shale resources will let the U.S. overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020 – fits with last week’s decision by the administration to remove more than 1.5 million western acres from oil shale development.

Short answer: Not very well.

Although we’re talking about two different shale resources – one that yields oil and/or natural gas when fractured and one containing solid material that converts to liquid oil when heated – this is about two approaches to America’s energy future and what’s possible if we don’t stop ourselves from developing American energy resources.

IEA’s report details home-grown energy potential – shale oil that could be the basis for greater energy security, jobs and economic growth. All would result from a real commitment to an all-of-the-above energy approach. IEA:

"Energy developments in the United States are profound and their effect will be felt well beyond North America - and the energy sector. The recent rebound in U.S. oil and gas production, driven by upstream technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources, is spurring economic activity - with less expensive gas and electricity prices giving industry a competitive edge – and steadily changing the role of North America in global energy trade.”

On the other hand, the administration’s oil shale announcement is about self-imposed limits and diminished potential. Oil shale deposits on federal lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil – six times Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves. Yet the administration has decided to rope off more than two-thirds of the oil shale lands in areas previously opened for leasing in 2008. This is a not-all-of-the above energy approach that undercuts the president’s campaign commitment to pursue greater domestic oil and natural gas development. API:

“This is another step in the wrong direction that limits development and investment in one of the nation’s most energy-rich areas and goes against a prior government decision that would allow for research and development over a much wider geographical area. Just days after the election this decision by the administration sends negative signals to industry and capital markets at a time when we need to encourage growth and innovation in the U.S.”

Oil and natural gas supply 62 percent of the energy we use today. Oil and gas make transportation affordable and reliable. They allow us to grow our food. They make our lives modern, healthier and more comfortable through the thousands of products derived from them. In large part because of oil and natural gas’ availability, affordability and reliability, they’re projected to supply more than 55 percent of our energy in 2035 – if we develop our oil and gas resources.

Again, two news developments – and two suggested visions of America’s future: One of economic growth, jobs, greater security and almost limitless opportunity; the other of, well, limits to all of the above.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.