Is the deficit fix right beneath our feet?

Nearly $130 trillion in oil and gas resources are buried under US government land, worth about 8 times our national debt. But tapping it isn't so easy.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 6, 2013 1:13PM

Oil derricks -- Comstock/CorbisA solution to the country's growing national debt sits right beneath Americans' feet, according to a report from the nonprofit Institute for Energy Research.

That's the $128 trillion in technically recoverable oil and gas resources below 41 million acres of federally owned land, according to the group, which advocates for "freely-functioning energy markets." The chief executive of the group is a former director of policy analysis at Enron.

The "federal government’s mineral estate land holdings surpass the total surface land area of the nation of Canada," according to the report. "These holdings, as we will see, are vastly underutilized."

Most of those below-ground assets are mineral and energy resources, such as oil and coal. Among those hidden deposits are 10.4 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the continental shelf off the lower 48 states, the report notes. 

Right now, the government leases only about 2% of federal offshore areas and 6% of onshore lands. 

But tapping those resources isn't so easy. 

For one, not all federally controlled lands are open to leasing, as noted by the Congressional Budget Office in a study last year.

Leasing is statutorily prohibited in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for example, the CBO noted. It estimated that opening the land up to development would lead to about $5 billion in additional revenue over the next decade. 

And opening the refuge and other wilderness areas to drilling and mining would undoubtedly spur a backlash from Americans who believe such areas should remain undisturbed by mining and other human activities.

One such group is the Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation organization that advocates protecting the area. According to its site, "the Arctic Refuge is under assault. The oil industry and its political allies continue to launch attacks to open this national treasure to destructive oil and gas drilling, while climate change threatens to disrupt its habitats faster than wildlife can adapt." 

It's not as if U.S. taxpayers aren't already benefiting from minerals hidden under the country's federally owned land. Revenue from all oil and gas leases on public lands will amount to $150 billion over the next 10 years, according to the CBO. 

With the Institute for Energy Research pushing for greater development, it may be taking the advice of oilman J. Paul Getty, who said, "The meek shall inherit the earth but not its mineral rights."

More on moneyNOW

Feb 7, 2013 12:10PM
more BS put out by bigggggggggggggg oil & gas, they want to drill more and more so they can export more & more and make more & more profit all the while asking gov to subsidize more and more of there costs.......plain & simple............
Feb 7, 2013 11:57AM

Problem is - we burn more gas and oil - more pollution and warming. Problem is, we have no idea what the long term consequences of allowing FRACKING any and everywhere. Fossil fuels might make you feel shape. We may all choke on our need for security.


And how do you know it can be done without damaging the environment. Life begins on a micro-biological level and millions of those unseen species go extinct because of man each year. They are the building blocks to the food supply.


We have ravaged the environment. How dare anyone claim we won't continue as Icebergs the size of Manhattan drop off Greenland. I suppose you'll have to be knee deep in a NY subway station before you admit what's going on.

Feb 7, 2013 11:16AM
I'm assuming that the Defenders of Wildlife and the other environmental terrorists are all walking or riding mules to wherever they have to go. If you don't want it, don't use it. Problem solved. Just keep your bleedin' heart out of my business.
Feb 7, 2013 11:06AM
There is a way to drill for oil in this region and not effect the land and this is drilling on a angle far away from such areas that are to be protected. It can be done but the oil companies do not want to say they are using this tecknowledge.
Feb 7, 2013 10:49AM
There is not a chance with the knobhead in the White House that our energy resources will be used in a greater capacity.
Feb 7, 2013 10:45AM
The government needs to establi**** own national oil company so that the oil trillions will be kept in the U.S.........Instead the land is leased to foreign companies who steal the oil and pay political kickbacks to corrupt politicians
Feb 7, 2013 10:45AM

1. Enact a 2% national sales tax on ALL sales. No exceptions.

2. Enact an unrevokable law that 100% of the revenue MUST be used to write down the debt.

3. Require that Congress pass and adhere to a balanced budget.

4. In less than 15 years when the national debt has been retired, the 2% national sales tax MUST end.

5. If Congress does not adhere to either 2 or 3 above, the national sales tax will end immediately

To Dry Cleaners post above



might not go....the far right, and neo cons would never allow a balanced budget if it involved any cuts to military. Keep saying close some of those 700 overseas bases, and stop being the worlds policeman, supposedly we have over 60 bases in Japan...Let the Japanese rearm, would scare the heck out of China and North Korea

Feb 7, 2013 10:41AM
More oil drilling only profits the oil companies.........our oil gets sold overseas to keep the price up it ruins the environment........this is another dead red herring......
Feb 7, 2013 10:39AM
If you could spend one hundred dollars ($100.)  every second of the day, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, it would take 317 years to spend a trillion dollars. Or 1,902 years to spend 6 trillion dollars (the amount that Obama has added to our nations debt in his first term). Doesn't anybody get that this is soon going to ruin the future of our children and grandchildren? Not just simply make things is a disaster in the making. You can not just keep printing more money and saying that we will stand behind the amount of the debt...because it is not possible.
Feb 7, 2013 10:35AM
Someone (else)  This seems to have gone over every one's head---if we have enough oil to export at the export high price and our gas prices are as high as they are, but do not really come down, and both Republicans and Democrats want to do mor4e for the middle class, maybe they should open their eyes and put people to work building more oil refinery capacity, to get more finished product to our consumers in this country to pay less for the gas they have to buy, and at the same time give more people more money to spend.
Feb 7, 2013 10:32AM
 Since this was written and we have read this article will it cause the price of gas at the pump go up because this article was written and read ??? Because as we all know it seems like anything can cause the price of gasoline to go up for no real reason..
Feb 7, 2013 10:27AM
Does any one believe the wacko left wing tree huggers would ever stand still for our government acting responsibly regarding our national debt and using our available resources to do something so silly?  That would take someone with common sense and they have all moved to Switzerland.
Feb 7, 2013 10:22AM
It's time to take our country back. Big government is not the answer! And additions to the White House don't sit too well with me when our country is so deep in debt.
Feb 7, 2013 10:16AM
Getty knew some things, he would have been better off not having all the wealth, and just a little teensy weensy brain. Gods word tells us to take dominion over the Earth and subdue it, and replenish it. If  God created it, and He did by the way, how stupid is it that we never listen to Him, but give heed to these rich idiots??
Feb 7, 2013 10:15AM
and it will go untouched as long as odummy is in office cause he doesnt like oil or gas he wants every one in a chevy volt cause he owns a lot of stock in g m
Feb 7, 2013 9:45AM

Mass transit, solar and wind, design houses better.  Nationalize all oil and gas I'm tired of these rich people sitting on their as_

Feb 7, 2013 9:35AM

Its not the government who would be profiting from the oil reserves, it will be the oil companies such as Exxon, BP, Chevron. They are already sitting on billions and yet we are still paying for gas that is way over priced. Same staus quo the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Feb 7, 2013 9:06AM

And thank the Democrats and the free-loading, tree-hugging jerks

Feb 7, 2013 8:35AM

Elimination/reduction of the national debt, cheaper fuel prices, and more jobs. I don't see anything here to get excited about. Let's tax the rich, lower medicare benefits, and keep our navy in port. That makes more sense.

Feb 7, 2013 7:21AM

If we have the natural resources to pay off our national debt why not do it. Lets fix our debt, jump start our economy and bring some American oil to Amercians. We should be energy self sufficient and not dependent on forigen oil and gas. We can do it safely, we are Americans and can do anything we put our minds too.

The secondary bennefit would be the paying down of our national debt, the economy could be improved by an American energy boom and just to make in interesting lets take a nickle for every gallon of gas and put it towards alternative energy research and development

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