REPOST: Oil reserves hit highest level since 1985, report says
Bolstered by the success of new technology, U.S. oil reserves surged by 15% in 2011 to the highest level recorded since 1985, a report said.
Proved oil reserves jumped by a record 3.8 billion barrels to 29 billion barrels, the third annual increase, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About 3.6 billion barrels of that comes from so-called "tight" oil plays, which often require the kind of new technology that has unlocked previously inaccessible reserves.
Adam Sieminski, administrator at the energy agency, said horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, has "continued to increase oil and natural gas reserves."
"Higher oil prices helped drive record increases in crude oil reserves, while natural gas reserves grew strongly despite slightly lower natural gas prices in 2011," he said in a statement.
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Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have been heralded by some as a tool to help the U.S. reduce its energy dependency on other countires, especially in volatile nations in the Middle East. But critics contend that the technology damages the environment and has been linked to increased seismic activity.
Several bills that would restrict fracking have stalled or died in the California Legislature. Lawmakers have been looking into the issue in earnest as oil companies explore California's Monterey Shale, a vast span of deep rock deposits that is estimated to contain 15 billion barrels of oil. That's roughly four times the amount in North Dakota's Bakken Shale.
Only one bill, known as SB4, is still under discussion. It requires energy companies to share more information with property owners and the state of California. It would also task the California Natural Resources Agency to commission a study on the environmental repercussions of fracking.
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