As the crisis in Syria reaches the boiling point, sending oil higher, it's time to rethink America's energy independence. It's estimated that 30% of the country's undiscovered oil and gas reserves lie within federal lands that are currently unavailable to oil and gas drillers. It's quite possible that there is even more oil than that just waiting to be discovered.
New technologies such as horizontal drilling, when combined with hydraulic fracturing, have unlocked shale oil reserves such as the Bakken and the Eagle Ford Shale. Top Bakken driller Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR) believes there are more than 24 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil equivalent in the Bakken, which, because of the oil-heavy nature of the formation, could double current proven oil reserves. Meanwhile, the discoverer of the Eagle Ford, EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG), believes that it alone can recover 8% of the estimated 26.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent in place. These two massive oil discoveries have brought U.S. oil production to a 24-year high.
But it's not enough. The oil fields of yesteryear are declining even as companies such as ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) are investing billions just to mitigate base decline in places like Alaska's North Slope. To reach energy independence, America needs to open up new areas to drilling.
The slideshow that follows overviews what we know about the five areas that are currently off limits to drilling but could hold the keys to our energy independence. One of the locations alone is believed to have the potential to displace the entire 1.35 million barrels of oil per day that the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia. If unleashed, it represents OPEC's worst nightmare.
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of ConocoPhillips. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.