Energy Institute CEO Urges Policymakers to Pursue Unconventional Oil

Apr 17, 2012

Institute for 21st Century president and CEO Karen Harbert

With gas prices once again rapidly rising and with the International Energy Agency predicting that demand for energy could increase by nearly 50% by 2035, you might assume that the Obama Administration would jump at the chance to bring hundreds of years of homegrown oil online.

Your assumption would be wrong.

Unconventional oil is oil from oil shale and oil sands.  In recent years, the U.S. is experiencing a natural gas boon thanks in part to technological advances.  Now, America’s oil and gas industry would like to apply those same innovations to unconventional oil, much of which resides on federal lands.  

But the Administration’s response has been to scale back exploration.

Today, Institute for 21st Century president and CEO Karen Harbert highlighted this nonsensical policy during testimony to the House Science Committee.  She pointed out that over the past three years, the Department of Interior has sharply curbed development of unconventional resources.  In fact, the department reduced the amount of oil shale acreage available for leasing to industry for research and demonstration from over 2 million acres to under 500,000 acres and the amount of oil sands acreage from over 400,000 to 91,000.

As Karen testified, tapping into these resources could completely alter the global oil market and eliminate the need to import energy.  Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah alone contain more oil from oil shale than all of the conventional oil contained in the Middle East.   Not surprisingly, many members of Congress were quite receptive to the testimony provided by Karen and other expert witnesses.   Should the U.S. ever get serious about this source of oil, there is little doubt that the global energy market would react—and bring relief to consumers.

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