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Scam Watch

September 21, 2008|David Colker

The pitch: There's enough oil under the Rockies to fuel America for 41 years!

The e-mail: A recent spam message makes the claim that there are more than 2 trillion untapped barrels of oil in the Western United States, with a concentration of it in a geological area known as the Bakken Formation. That amount, the e-mail says, is eight times more oil than is in Saudi Arabia. The e-mail goes on to urge people to write their congressional representatives, demanding that the oil be extracted.

The sources: The message mixes a bit of truth and a lot of information that's either outdated or just fantasy, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Snopes.com, which researches hoaxes. Much of it comes from a sales pitch for a fringe investment newsletter. The message also appears to draw from a report two years ago by the federal Energy Information Administration that there could be as much as 503 billion barrels (hardly 2 trillion but still impressive) in the Bakken Formation, which is mostly in North Dakota.

The update: Officials at the energy agency say that the 2006 information has been superseded by a study released this year by the U.S. Geological Survey. It says the amount of oil that could be extracted from the Bakken Formation, using current technology, is about 3.65 billion barrels. That's still a lot -- perhaps enough to replace imported oil for a year. But bringing home the Bakken oil would hardly free the country from foreign oil dependence.

Info: www.snopes.com/politics/gasoline/bakken.asp

-- David Colker

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