The so-called Phase III inventory, ordered up as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and released today by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, looks at the potential for energy development, as well as development's obstacles.
Utah, Wyoming and Colorado are among the states considered to have the greatest potential.
A key provision of the 2005 energy bill was to speed carbon-based energy development. The survey aims to ensure policymakers' decisions will minimize restraints on oil and gas production "unless it is absolutely necessary for the preservation of other resources present on the land," the report says.
Obstacles and impediments include literally anything that might stand in the way of full development, such as environmental protection law, municipal development, private property concerns, wildlife and even National Park designation.
Nada Culver, senior attorney for the Wilderness Society, said the report was a misleading misuse of science to support the oil and gas industry at a time when the focus should be on supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy.
But Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, issued a statement hailing the survey.
"If we are serious about reducing the price of gas at the pump we don't do it by relying on more foreign oil; we do it by opening up our own capacities in an environmentally responsible manner without harming our public lands," he said.
The study says that 24.2 billion barrels of oil are technically recoverable, with 6.3 billion barrels perhaps recoverable. With U.S. consumption at 20 million barrels of oil per day, the recoverable oil would last about three months.
The 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would last about a dozen years at today's consumption level of 62.2 billion cubic feet per day.