Currently, the United States uses 21 million barrels of oil a day, though consumption has been flat for the last 3 years, and dropped 3% in just the first 6 months of 2008. Unfortunately, the US only produces about 6 million barrels a day. This means we send $200 billion a year overseas to import oil.
No one likes being dependent upon others, particularly when what we are dependent upon is of such vital importance. Worse, a lot of that $200 billion goes to fund governments that at best are undemocratic and at worst bankroll and support terrorism.
The problem is, most of the world's oil is controlled by these less than friendly, to put it mildly, regimes. It is estimated that there are 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves worldwide, of which the US controls 21 billion. This data makes it seem impossible for the US to ever get out from under OPEC's thumb.
Impossible, that is, until you consider that the United States has an additional 2 trillion barrels of synthetic oil just waiting to be captured and refined. It's called oil shale, and the United States has over 60% of the world's supply. The technology used to extract oil from shale has steadily improved since the 80's, when conventional oil prices fell precipitously from their 70's oil crisis peak, making shale too unprofitable to pursue. But now, shale oil can be profitable with oil prices as low as $20 a barrel. Prices now sit in the $125 range.
Clearly, if the United States wants a push for energy independence, oil shale has to be at the top of the to-do list.