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Policy: Environment & Energy

US oil reserves reach highest level in 28 years

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Beltway Confidential,Energy Department,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment

U.S. proven reserves of crude oil and lease condensate totaled 29.5 billion barrels in 2011, a 15-percent increase from the previous year and the highest level since 1985, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. Crude oil proven reserves alone totaled 26.5 billion barrels, a 14 percent increases from 2010.

Liquid natural gas proven reserves (which contain methane as well as ethane and butane) also increased in 2011, up to 348.8 trillion cubic feet. That's a 10-percent increase from 2010. Dry natural gas proven reserves (which is just methane) increased 10 percent as well, to 334 trillion cubic feet.

President Obama's frequently repeated claim that the U.S. only has 2 percent of the world's oil reserves is misleading. While the U.S. has only 2 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, the U.S. has more total recoverable oil than the rest of the world's proven reserves combined. That means the U.S. can and should be energy independent, regardless of what happens with alternative sources like wind and solar.

But thanks to regulations and world events, it is becoming far more expensive to produce oil, according to EIA. And while oil reserves are up, production on federal lands is down, and has been falling ever since Obama took office. The increased production comes mostly on private lands not subject to much of the regulatory burdens associated with public land.

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