COMMENTARY | Almost unnoticed, an auditor from the General Accounting Office gave Congress the news that the Green River Formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah has more recoverable oil under it than the rest of the world combined, according to CNS News.
But in a good news/bad news kind of way, the auditor also noted much of the oil is in a shale formation under federal land. Therefore the government has the ability to determine how or if that oil is accessed.
In other words, the GAO auditor has announced a history-changing bit of news that would free the U.S. from dependency on "conflict oil" from the Middle East and other unfriendly countries or has announced a new political controversy. By noting the possibility of an environmental and economic impact of an oil boom in the Rocky Mountain West, the auditor suggests we might be in for the latter.
While the Obama administration has made itself infamous by standing like a stone wall between the U.S. and new sources of oil and gas, such as its refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, controversies involving oil on federal land have been around for decades. Politicians, backed up by battalions of environmental entrepreneurs, have stopped drilling in places like ANWR on the north coast of Alaska since the Carter administration.
Undeterred by embarrassments such as Solyndra, the Obama administration is likely to be reluctant to approve leases in an oil formation that promises to extend the age of fossil fuels for many decades. President Barack Obama wants his age of green energy and he wants it now. If more oil and gas start to flow, bringing down the price of energy, relatively expensive wind and solar power systems are not likely to be as attractive, no matter how much government subsidies those technologies get.
That is the problem of trying to determine energy technology by government fiat. Reality keeps getting in the way. The market clearly points toward traditional oil and gas, at least until green energy technologies are refined sufficiently to make them competitive. The Obama administration is impatient with the dictates of the market and believe it can set them aside with an executive order or a well-placed regulation. The administration is wrong in this assessment, but its attempts to be proven right will be damaging in the meantime.