The drumbeat is growing: “Drill here. Drill now. We’ve got it. We need it.”
And right now we are drilling more and more in the U.S. Nearly every day a media article announces how we are getting closer to energy independence. It is as if people are in a giddy frenzy over the fact that oil is gushing from our wells.
(Two quick questions that will be rhetorical for the time being: One, do we not care about the climate we are leaving for our children? And if we’re having such an oil bonanza in the US, why are gasoline prices still rising?)
But just how much oil is in the US. How much oil is in the US? From wikipedia: “The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates the total volume of undiscovered, technically recoverable prospective resources in all areas of the United States, including the Federal Outer Continental Shelf, the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, and the Bakken Formation, total 134 billion barrels (21.3×10^9 m3) of crude oil.”
Wow! 134,000,000,000 barrels of oil. THAT ought to last us forever, shouldn’t it?
However, once again we see the failing of the American education system. 134,000,000,000 is indeed a large number. But it must be placed in context. How much oil is used every day in the US? We use about 20,000,000 barrels a day, every day. Woops. At 20,000,000 barrels per day, we’re going to make a quick dent in that huge supply we’ve got.
In fact, we could drill on every square inch of land and sea and pump that stuff right into our cars and at current rates of consumption, we would get about 18 years worth of oil. And that is if we could get every drop of the 134 billion barrels, which we are unlikely to do, given the enormous costs it will take to get the to the bottom of those reservoirs. And it will only last that long if we don’t increase our daily rate of consumption.
“Oh but,” some will say, “we’ll use oil much more efficiently than we have been.” Right. Then we’ll demonstrate Jevon’s paradox, in that the more efficiently one uses energy, the more one uses overall.
No, we red blooded Americans are going to go hell bent for leather to use it all as fast as God intended us to. Until one day in the next couple of decades we’ll have no more oil left and we’ll be out of the choices we have today. We will have driven ourselves literally to the end of the road. By placing our hopes on drilling, and importing, at the end of that road we will be reduced to waiting for a miracle, or scrambling to salvage what we can of the civilization we knew.