David Reevely has an interesting post describing the funny way in which Alberta tries exploit it’s oil rents by renting out the extraction rights. Currently, the Premier decides on the fraction of profits that must go to the province, which seems somewhat clumsy. Reevely points out that an auction would be a much better way for Alberta to capture all the rents, especially because information (surveying) costs are low relative to the potential profits. Oil extraction rights seem very similar to EM spectrum usage rights, where auctions have been very successful in generating revenue.

Addendum: Vernon Smith suggested auctioning Alaskan oil extraction rights back in 2004.