RESOURCES: Those Slippery Data

When it comes to oil reserves, the U.S. is surely in the hole—as the American Petroleum Institute reiterated last week. The industry trade association reckoned that the nation's proven recoverable reserves dropped last year by 1.7 billion bbl., to 30.9 billion bbl. That is just one of many statistics measuring just what the U.S. has down there, for no industrial society gathers more energy information or has more computers to refine it. Yet the U.S. is woefully unaware of the real size of its energy resources.

Federal officials, who depend almost entirely on...

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