Under the Dome

How much oil does the U.S. have?

Does the United States have 2 trillion barrels of oil?

A radio ad touting an energy bill cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole says that the United States is "home to a vast supply of oil, estimated at over 2 trillion barrels."

The ad appears to be referring to the Green River Formation, a giant untapped oil shale deposit in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

A 2005 report by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank based in California, estimated that the Green River Formation holds between 1.5 and 1.8 trillion barrels of oil, of which roughly 800 billion barrels are recoverable.

"Present U.S. demand for petroleum products is about 20 million barrels per day, so 800 billion barrels would last for more than 400 years if oil shale could be used to meet a quarter of that demand," the think tank noted in a brief.

However, it added that there are technical problems.

"Assuming the private sector decides to invest in oil shale development and production, we expect that an oil shale industry capable of producing more than a million barrels per day is at least 20 years off," it said.

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