WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With average national gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management today released a study that shows vast untapped oil and natural gas resources exist on public lands in the United States. "America has abundant energy resources," said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management C. Stephen Allred. "However, for a variety of reasons, many of these resources are not available for development. At a time when energy prices have reached record levels and Americans are feeling the impact, we must find ways to develop those key energy resources that are available to us right here at home, on our public lands."
The report is the third in a series of congressionally mandated scientific studies of U.S. onshore federal oil and natural gas resources and limitations on their development. All onshore federal lands throughout the U.S. believed to have energy potential are included in this latest study. These public lands are estimated to contain 31 billion barrels of oil and 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The BLM administers leasing of onshore Federal oil and gas resources.
The inventory found that 60 percent of the onshore Federal lands that have potential as domestic sources for natural gas and oil are presently closed to leasing, making 62 percent of the oil and 41 percent of the natural gas inaccessible for development. An additional 30 percent of onshore federal oil and 49 percent of onshore federal gas may only be developed subject to restrictions over and above standard environmental lease terms, including seasonal timing limitations. The study found that in the inventory areas just 8 percent of onshore Federal oil and 10 percent of onshore Federal gas are accessible under standard lease terms.
The 279 million acres inventoried are managed by various Federal agencies, including the BLM and other agencies in the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture. Some of these acres are split estate, where the subsurface mineral resources are Federally owned but the surface is privately owned.
"Public lands have a significant role to play in meeting our domestic energy needs securely and affordably," said BLM Director Jim Caswell. "Current technology allows us to develop energy resources without adversely impacting the environment or permanently diminishing other non-energy resources found on public lands. With the means to make energy development a temporary use of the land, we don't have to choose between energy security and healthy lands."
The latest inventory expands on earlier reports published in 2003 and 2006 pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000, or EPCA. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also directed that the EPCA study consider conditions of approval, which are restrictions attached to drilling permits (e.g., no drilling permitted during seasonal migration of sensitive species), and to which companies must adhere during lease development.
The new report was prepared under the direction of the BLM. Co-authors, contributors and reviewers include the U.S. Geological Survey, the USDA-Forest Service, and the Department of Energy and its Energy Information Administration. Copies can be obtained by writing to the Bureau of Land Management, Office of Public Affairs, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-LS 406, Washington, D.C. 20240. The report and a related fact sheet are also available online at (www.blm.gov).
The BLM manages more land than any other Federal agency, 258 million acres. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The BLM accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.
More information is available at www.blm.gov.