According to The Institute for Energy Research the Federal government owns oil and gas worth on the order of $128 trillion. I suspect that these numbers are optimistic. Nevertheless, some judicious sales of land and assets (and to its credit the Obama administration has made some small steps in this direction) would be wise.
Federal assets below the ground are primarily mineral and energy resources, such as oil, natural gas, and coal. For example, the United States owns millions of acres and billions of barrels of oil that can be developed on federal lands and waters. Currently, the government leases only 2 percent of federal offshore areas and less than 6 percent of federal onshore lands for oil and natural gas production. Areas that the federal government could open to oil and gas development include:
- The 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- The 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the outer continental shelf of the lower 48 states
- The 896 million barrels of oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Naval Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
- The 25 billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of Alaska
- The 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the geologic provinces north of the Arctic circle
- The 982 billion barrels of oil shale in the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
These technically recoverable resources total 1,194 billion barrels of oil and 2,150 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is owned by the federal taxpayer. At $100.00 per barrel of oil and $4.00 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas, the oil resources are worth $119.4 trillion and the natural gas resources are worth $8.6 trillion for a grand total of $128 trillion, or about 8 times the U.S. national debt.[iii]
Hat tip: Robert Murphy.