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 6, 2013 9:50PM
Norman has leased his land for development of oil and gas in our mineral rights.  Thank God we live in a country where you can own them!
Feb 6, 2013 9:48PM

Volcanoes and Forest Fires cause natural global warming climate change shifts that have existed and taken place many times before the birth of mankind or any use of fossil fuel. Does producing CO2 speed this process? More than likely yes, but fossil fuel is not "responsible" for climate changes. 

A great transfer of wealth has occurred out of this county by buying these energy sources from the middle east and other parts of the world.  Energy independence will start with domestic production of oil, gas and coal and as market conditions dictate, the economic viability of alternative "Green?" energy will be developed. 


Feb 6, 2013 9:14PM
Of course! Rape and plunder the earth for trillions for unregulated energy company's!  Its a finite product remember..


Feb 6, 2013 9:01PM
Okay we go for it! Turn the oil companies loose in every crack of land we have then after 6-10 years after they have sucked up all they can easily get and the land is dug up for all of its coal  and China buys all of the oil up on the market. then what? The alaskan pipeline was supposed to help make us independent  from foreign oil until the oil companies admit they were selling it to the highest bidder. 
Feb 6, 2013 8:45PM
Yay,and none of it will need to be touched;they do'nt even tell you the vastness of what lies beneath the oceans,It pours out of the ocean floor as tar.4128 trillion dollars in oil value,what they do not tell you is the cost of getting it.Sounds good,but does'nt make sense to go after,would cost way too much to get to be profitable.It would cost us  less as a country to go after alternative fuels than it would to mine these resources.
Feb 6, 2013 8:43PM
so do you want to drill or not make up your mind  msn
Feb 6, 2013 8:37PM
Well our stupid president and stupid democratic and greenie congressmen refuse to let us drill on OUR government land (belongs to us people not the government doesn't it) !!!  Guess they are saving it for the senior prom !!!  It is as if they think it is sacred or something !!!   WHY ???  I think Obama just wants high gas prices so his greenie stuff will someday be economical !!!  The navy and air force are paying something like 50 bucks a gallon for biofuel gas !!!  STUPID GOVERNMENT !!!
Feb 6, 2013 8:33PM

Our current administration does not understand how much this could help the US. Things like blocking the Keystone pipeline hurt all of us. I guess they don't realize there are hundreds of thousands of mile of pipeline that have not ruined the environment. Drill baby.

















Feb 6, 2013 8:32PM
Just because you fill the tank on your car doesn't make you and expert on our energy situation.
Feb 6, 2013 8:30PM

Russia is the largest country and Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world.  These idiots say that the federal government owns more mineral resource land rights that is larger than the nation of Canada.  Let me get this right... these guys don't know something as fundamental as the land area of Canada.  If you believe this report, you will believe anything.

Feb 6, 2013 8:24PM
Natural gas is what burns in your heater, water heater and stove. Gasoline and diesel extracted from oil is what cars and trucks use. We don't produce enough oil. We have plenty of natural gas.
Feb 6, 2013 8:22PM
I don't understand why we are buying from opec.And we are exporting natural gas.I don't understand.
Feb 6, 2013 8:08PM
Typically oil companies pay 1/6th the value of the oil or gas produced to the owner whether a mineral rights holder or the government. If our government did like Russia and many other governments and retained ownership of the wells paying the oil companies a royalty for producing it instead of the other way around we'd make a lot more money.
Feb 6, 2013 8:07PM
They could get all $130 trillion out of the ground and still be 17 trillion in debt when it was all over.
Feb 6, 2013 8:00PM

As long as Obama and the Progressives hold the whitehouse we will not be drilling. And if we do Obama will just tax it and spend . The American deficit or the money stolen from Seniors Social Security fund would never see a dime. We have a government that wont stop

feeding on its own people.

Feb 6, 2013 7:59PM

We are in real trouble with the debt we are in but we do have the means to pay it off and just as this article states, the federal government is sitting on it.  I agree that oil companies are evil but the jobs that would be created would be good paying and could not be outsourced to India.  I say, open up the land, take away the subsidies from the oil companies.  It will have an enviromental impact but if we don't do something about our national debt our kids and grandkids will have a whole lot more to worry about then where they can take a hike without seeing something man made.

Feb 6, 2013 7:58PM
There are estimates of billions of barrels of oil off shore California. However, the government will not ever open it up to developement. Exxon has already stated that if these fields were developed that we would be self sufficent in oil. This was before all of the oil was found in the Bakken shale, Eagle Ford Shale, Woodfodr, Granite Wash, Hogshooter Wash,Uticia, Mississippi Lime, Horn River, Barnett field, Montery shale, etc, etc, etc.  With all the money the government has passed on we could probably do away with federal income taxes.Our society is really screwed -up.
Feb 6, 2013 7:47PM
With the Anti-American Barack in the White House and the Chicago crooks that surround him little will be done. Anyone happen to notice how he is helping his people, it ain't happening! Hired another white women today for his cabinet, and I would have thought a "Black"Secretary of State by the name of Powell might of helped his cause. White, women and Asians, sorry brother!
Feb 6, 2013 7:44PM

If the government claims that there are $140 trillion, then you can multiply that by 3 to 4 time and come up with a figure that is more accurate. Just imagine the enviromental groups have held up every project of federal lands and we have only used 6% of the land. This development on private lands will furnish enough energy so we probably won't nedd access to federal lands. With all the money involved the developement on private land will not be stopped by environmental claims. Notice, I didn't say actual proven claims of fresh water pollution, I said claims of damage. It has been proven that fracing has caused damage to fesh water formations. One lady wrote on a pro-fracing site that her water well was damaged by a well drilled 7 miles away. You would be lucky to push water a 100 feet with the fracing job, 1000 ffeet impossible without a nuclear explosion to force the water, 1/2 mile impossible by any man made force (except a nuclear explosion). This ladies claim of damages is the exact reason oil companies aren't to worried about claims of damages.














Feb 6, 2013 7:44PM
This is black gold, texas tea, all kind s of jobs money to the the gov't in taxes, it is crazy setting on a gold mind and not using it, because the libs hate fossil fuel.
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