About six months ago, one of the Forbes brothers was a guest on a news program about oil, and the host said to Forbes: “I am going to ask you a direct question, and I would like a direct answer: How much oil does the U.S. have in the ground?”

Forbes’ response was, “More than all the Middle East put together.”

The U.S. Geological Survey issued a report in April 2008 that only scientists and oil men knew was coming. It was a revised report of a 1995 study of how much oil was in the area of the western two-thirds of North Dakota, western South Dakota and far eastern Montana:

“The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10 percent of the oil is recoverable … at $107 a barrel, we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.”

“When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea,” said Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature’s financial analyst.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported: “This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years. It’s a formation known as the Williston Basin, but is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bakken’ that stretches from Northern Montana through North Dakota and into Canada. For years, U.S. oil exploration has been considered a dead end. Even the ‘Big Oil’ companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken’s massive reserves … and we now have access to up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 per barrel.”

That’s enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 2,041 years. And a later study from 2006 noted: “U.S. Oil Discovery — Largest Reserve in the World” (Stansberry Report Online, April 20, 2006).

Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world. It is more than 2 trillion barrels. On Aug. 8, 2005, President George W. Bush mandated its extraction. In 3½ years of high oil prices, none has been extracted. With this motherload of oil, why are we still fighting over offshore drilling?

They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders than all of the other proven reserves on Earth.

Here are the official estimates:

» Eight times as much oil as Saudi Arabia

» 18 times as much oil as Iraq

» 21 times as much oil as Kuwait

» 22 times as much oil as Iran

» 500 times as much oil as Yemen

And it’s all right here in the Western United States.

So, why aren’t we extracting this oil? The answer, of course, is the environmentalists, who have blocked all efforts to enable America to become independent of foreign oil!

Why do we continue to allow a small group of people to dictate our lives and our economy?

James Bartis, lead researcher with the study, says we’ve got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Mideast — more than 2 trillion barrels untapped. That’s more than all the proven oil reserves of crude oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post. Don’t think OPEC will drop its price — even with this find? Think again! It’s all about the competitive marketplace — it has to. Think OPEC just might be funding the environmentalists?

With all the turmoil around the world in areas that produce most of the oil that we currently use, it makes sense for us to emphasize using our own resources as much as possible. Of course, this would mean changing the attitude of the environmental types who believe that by preventing as much drilling as possible they can force us to concentrate on developing alternative sources of energy.

A February 2011 post by Conn Carroll noted, “The (President Barack) Obama Interior Department has blocked access to 19 billion barrels of oil in the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and another 10 billion barrels estimated in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast. Onshore, federal leasing of oil and gas exploration in the western United States has dropped significantly in the past two years.

“According to data compiled by the Western Energy Alliance, the Bureau of Land Management offered 79 percent fewer leases for oil and natural gas development in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming in 2010 than in 2005. And then there is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil lie beneath a few thousand acres that can be accessed with minimal environmental impact.”

Carroll also observed: “Allowing Americans to develop these resources could easily produce at least 1 million new barrels of oil a day. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis estimates that, if the United States managed to increase its domestic oil production by 1 million barrels a day, it would create an additional 128,000 jobs and generate $7.7 billion in economic activity.”

Unfortunately, whatever we may do to utilize more of our own oil and less of the oil that we currently obtain from other countries, over the long term, we will eventually run out.

As a matter of fact, the entire world soon will begin to experience shortages of oil to run their vehicles, provide heat and air conditioning, and produce the thousands products that are made from oil derivatives, such as drugs.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.