by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
New York, N.Y.
October 16, 2009
THE OIL AND GAS MONSTER THAT ATE AMERICA
NEW YORK, Oct. 16, 2009 -- In the conspiratorial world it goes something like this: "the largest oil and gas reserves in the world are in - pick a state, usually North Dakota, Montana, Alaska - "but the devious" - (pick one or more) Arabs, automakers, politicians, environmentalists - "are conspiring with the news media to bury the news."
When my savvy editor Joe Shea ran the latest eblasts of rumor and innuendo by me I rolled my eyes but promised to check out the big "secret" reserves. What I found was similar to stories I've investigated over the years about shortages, cornered markets, and fuel efficiency: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and a grain of truth in a maelstrom of deception - intended or not - is downright incendiary.
Before we get into the specifics let's see how the real world of energy has worked - not the world we would want to see or want to live in.
First off, the impetus for cars powered by grass cuttings, corn, sugar beets, propane, cow manure, soy beans, or garbanzo-induced flatulence dissipates in the breeze of public opinion when $140 oil drops to $70. The strident alternative fuel advocates filling up at $4.12 per gallon tend to be more docile and politically complacent at $2.45 per gallon.
Next comes the gold analogy. The biggest gold reserves anywhere are not a great money-maker if gold is $387 an ounce. At $1,100 an ounce, even marginal gold fields can cover the cost of extra machinery, manpower, and extrusion fees.
During the oil crisis of the 1970's a long-neglected oil field in the area of Jay, in the northwestern most tip of Florida - 45 minutes NNW of Pensacola, was rejuvenated. With oil prices climbing, Exxon and others could bring in machines to superheat water and inject the steam under pressure into abandoned wells - sort of the way your old family dentist carefully cleaned out a root canal. Ugh! The watery sludge would require some processing to be cleaned and separated from the oil, but oil was so dear that it was worth it.
Just look at the cattle ranchers near Amarillo or Dumas whose small wells snapped back to life drop by drop and gallon by gallon a year or two ago when prices zoomed.
So, yes, there are potentially massive oil and gas reserves beneath America and its waters, and under certain conditions they could ease price burdens, but many conditions have to be met and variables counted.
Ironically, I sensed a personal change in most Americans a few years ago and played a game with friends and strangers. I would ask, "Would you pay, say, 40 cents more than the normal Arab-important oil market driven rate for gasoline at the pump if you knew that 100 per cent of your gas either was domestic or at least came from countries that did not want us dead because we have Christians and Jews as neighbors?" Everyone has answered "Yes."
The usual sites such as Snopes,David Emery's excellent Urban Legends, and some more suspect sources as Wikipedia articles can be used to track down these conspiracy theories, I have chosen the Annenberg School's "Factcheck.org" for this one, but it mostly confirms what I have read from numerous other sources. Fill up your tank and enjoy!
Q: Are anti-drilling forces blocking access to the world's largest oil reserve in the western U.S.?
A: The Bakken Formation touted in a chain e-mail isn't the world's largest oil reserve. The amount of oil it contains, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is less than one one-hundredth of the estimate cited in the e-mail.
I have a friend who always sends me this sort of thing, which I can never verify. sounds like someone selling swamp water - thanks.
Chain e-mail: If you start reading and "don't believe" go to the bottom of the page and click on the US Government link. You'll get the same information.
The U. S. Geological Service issued a report in April ('08) that only scientists and oil men knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a revised report (hadn't been updated since '95) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota ; western South Dakota ; and extreme eastern Montana - .. check THIS out:
The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska 's Prudhoe Bay , and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable, at $107 a barrel, we're looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.
When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically= see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.' says Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature's financial analyst.
'This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years,' reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
1. It's a formation known as the Williston Basin, but is more commonly referred to as the 'Bakken.' And it stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and into Canada . For years, U. S. oil exploration has been considered a dead end. Even the 'Big Oil' companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken's massive reserves - and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!
That's enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years straight.
2. And if THAT didn't throw you on the floor, then this next one should - because it's from TWO YEARS AGO!
U. S. Oil Discovery- Largest Reserve in the World! Stansberry Report Online - 4/20/2006
On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction. In three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted. With this mother load of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?
They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official estimates:
- 8-times as much oil as Saudi Arabia
HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this? Because the environmentalists and others have blocked all efforts to help America become independent of foreign oil! Again, we are letting a small group of people dictate our lives and our economy - .WHY?
James Bartis, lead researcher with the study says we've got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Middle East - more than 2 TRILLION barrels untapped. That's more than all the proven oil reserves of crude oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post. Don't think 'OPEC' will drop its price - even with this find? Think again! It's all about the competitive marketplace, - it has to. =
Think OPEC just might be funding the environmentalists?
Got your attention/ire up yet? Hope so! Now, while you're thinking about it - and hopefully P.O'd, do this: 3. Pass this along If you don't take a little time to do this, then you should stifle yourself the next time you want to complain about gas prices ... because by doing NOTHING, you've forfeited your right to complain.
Now I just wonder what would happen in this country if every one of you sent this to every one in your address book.
By the way - this is all true. Check it out at the link below!!!
GOOGLE it or follow this link. It will blow your mind:
We've received this e-mail from our readers several dozen times, and a Google search for some of its claims turns up hundreds of results.
Unfortunately, it is false. It combines and twists several different news stories and studies into a longer tale of sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing (factually, anyway).
The tale begins with an exhortation telling the reader to "go to the bottom of the page and click on the US Government link" for proof of the e-mail's veracity. Well, we did. And the link to a U.S. Geological Survey press release from April 2008 directly contradicts the e-mail's main assertion.
The e-mail says that the Bakken Formation oil reserve (which is located in the Dakotas and Montana) "has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil" and is estimated to hold 503 billion barrels of oil.
That's not true. It credits the USGS report from 2008 as the source of this information. It's not.
The glowing language and more optimistic estimates about Bakken quoted in the e-mail can be traced to a 2006 Wall Street Journal story reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. But the anonymous author of this e-mail omits an important caveat from that story, which said that "the lofty predictions remain unproven, and skeptics remain."
And there was an incomplete USGS draft study of the Bakken from 2000 that included estimates ranging up to 500 billion barrels. But the Energy Information Administration explained in 2006 that it was not peer-reviewed and cautioned readers to wait for the official USGS estimate:
EIA, 2006: A draft study by the late organic geochemist Leigh Price provides estimates ranging from 271 to 503 billion barrels (mean of 413 billion) of potential resources in place. The study represents Dr. Price's work as it stood at the time of his death in August 2000. It was conducted while he was working for the USGS, but it did not receive a complete scientific peer review by the USGS and was not published as a USGS product. A new assessment of the entire basin, due out in about a year, will provide an updated USGS estimate of the technically recoverable oil resources in the Bakken Formation. The official estimate, contained in the USGS press release from last year, was a substantially smaller estimate of technically recoverable oil: 3 billion to 4.3 billion barrels.
The e-mail cites James Bartis as a "lead researcher of this study," but he was actually a RAND Corporation researcher who led a different, related study. Bartis wrote a 2006 _report on oil shale development and resources in the United States that said "the midpoint in our estimate range, 800 billion barrels, is more than triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia." That's for the entire U.S., not Bakken alone.
But Bartis also cautioned that the technology to extract oil from the fields was not yet commercially viable and said that even "under high growth assumptions, an oil shale production level of 1 million barrels per day is probably more than 20 years in the future, and 3 million barrels per day is probably more than 30 years into the future."
Nowhere in his study did Bartis say that Bakken has "more than 2 trillion barrels," as the e-mail falsely claims.
Snopes.com reviewed a similar mutation of this e-mail and traced the 2 trillion barrels of oil estimate to a tout sheet from the Stansberry Report Online, a group referenced in the e-mail.
Snopes also noted that Stansberry is an investment newsletter trying to sell subscriptions. The Stansberry site appeared to be down when we tried to access it, but the tout sheet was reproduced here.
Snopes ultimately ruled the email to be a "mixture of true and false information."
We agree. But we'd add that the email's implication that politicians, environmentalists and the media is preventing oil drilling in the Bakken is decidedly false. The Bakken has already seen drilling and was a principal cause of the recent increase in U.S. proven oil reserves, according to the EIA.
Bank, Justin - FactCheck.org.
Fialka, John J. - Wildcat producer sparks oil boom on Montana plains", Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2006.
Press Release. 3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana's Bakken Formation 25 Times More Than 1995 Estimate". United States Geological Survey Newsroom, April 10, 2008.
USGS Frequently Asked Questions. What is the time frame to accomplish the retrieval of this oil and gas?, accessed March 16, 2009.