The Energy Challenge

By Alan W. Dowd,

[..] But going nuclear isn’t the only answer for America. There are multiple paths to energy independence, and as the chaos and wars of the oil-rich Middle East continually remind us it is in the national interest to pursue all of them. That includes nuclear energy, bio-fuels like ethanol, hybrid technologies, conservation strategies like those in the Senate bill—and fossil fuels from right here in America.

If you think the United States has exhausted its own reserves of fossil fuels, think again. The Energy Information Administration, a sub-agency of the Department of Energy, reports that, at this moment, the US has 29.9 billion barrels of oil. In other words, the US actually possesses more oil than oil-exporting countries such as Mexico, Norway and the UK.[3]

Plus, there are vast, untapped oil fields and other energy sources inside the US:

    * Just off the coast of Louisiana, Chevron has found an oil field—the “Jack 2” well—with 15 billion barrels of oil.
    * The nonpartisan research firm RAND estimates that Colorado, Utah and Wyoming sit on a goldmine of oil-shale deposits, once thought to be too expensive to convert into petroleum. These states hold between 500 billion and 1.1 trillion recoverable barrels. As RAND’s James Bartis explained in 2005, “We’ve got more oil in this very compact area than the entire Middle East.”[4]
    * As The Economist has reported, drillers have discovered a billion barrels of oil in Sevier County, Utah, alone.
    * Plus, the so-called Greater Rocky Mountain Region holds between 165 trillion and 260 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which explains why geologists are calling this swath of the US, “the Persian Gulf of natural gas.” (Iran, by way of comparison, sits atop 26.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.)

In fact, when we add America’s existing proven reserves to the new finds along the Gulf and in the Big Sky states, the US possesses more oil than all the smug, petroleum-producing headaches of the world—combined. More than Saudi Arabia, more than Iran, more than the UAE, more than Venezuela, more than Russia.

In short, contrary to the mantras of forlorn politicians and newsmen, the “energy crisis” is more a crisis of will than of availability/quantity: The future-fuel alternatives are there—in nuclear power and hybrids and, further down the road, hydrogen. Do we have the will to exploit them? And the fossil fuels are there today—in the Big Sky states and the Gulf and Alaska. Do we have the will to extract them?

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) has found that “There is no evidence that the world, in general, or the United States, in particular, is running out of fossil fuels.” The very opposite may be more accurate:

    * In 1874, geologists in Pennsylvania (then the major oil-producing state) predicted there was only four year’s worth of oil remaining in the US. Yet by 1945, proven reserves of oil in the US amounted to 20 billion barrels.
    * Between 1945 and 1994, the US produced 135 billion barrels of oil domestically—“more than six times the entire amount known to exist in 1945.” Today, US reserves alone could sustain domestic oil needs for 38 to 75 years.
    * In 1920, the US Geological Survey estimated total world oil supplies at 60 billion barrels. In 1950, the experts pushed that number to 600 billion. By 1990, world oil supplies were estimated at 2 trillion barrels. By the mid-1990s, the estimate was higher yet—2.4 trillion. And by 2000, it was even higher—3 trillion barrels of oil supply.

The reason for this constant upward readjustment is technology. NCPA notes that before the first US well was drilled in 1859, “petroleum supplies were limited to crude oil that oozed to the surface.” But thanks to technological advances, oil is being discovered in new places; and trapped oil is being extracted from old places, as with the oil-shale deposits in the western US.

At a consumption rate of 20.6 million barrels a day, America’s substantial oil reserves are not an endless supply. But they are enough to carry us, comfortably, to what might be called “the post-petro economy.”

June 27, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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2 Comments / 2 Comments

  1. You need only to follow the money to find that unelected–and therefore unaccountable–bureaucrats in Washington have financial incentives with the oil producers of the world. They direct intel and policy to Arab and oil company benefit in order to receive their pay day after their “public service” has finished. EVERY former US diplomat in the OPEC countries in the State Department becomes a “consultant” or “lobbyist.” This is all well-documented. And now those “Big Oil Companies” are all in favor of the latest financially burdensome environmental standards because the little oil companies (all those in the Rockies) are unable to implement them without crippling their companies. (Hence all the eco-friendly BP and Conoco commercials on TV.) With strokes of pens from their cronies in Washington, the Arabs and the Big Oil Companies (their paymasters, literally) have nothing to worry about. But Big Oil is coming to the Rockies because of the potential. The legislation and regulation will weaken small companies and make their purchase terms right for the Big Boys. It’s already beginning to happen.

    This is also a major factor in our foreign policy. Condi may be brilliant, she may even be a good woman (I keep hearing both), but she can’t go against the entire tide of reporting from her analysts and field agents at State. No one is that capable. The machine is too big for her, or anyone.

    Clearly, the technology and resources are available today to END the US’s foreign energy dependence, and quickly. But it won’t benefit the right people. Yet.

  2. I encourage all to take a look at a technology – or rather, a budding technology – that was written off by several people with various types of axe to grind. My concern is how to rapidly commercialize this technology, via investment. Israel happens to have a company that is doing some quite fascinating work in the field.

    You can find out about it by going to New Energy Times, which is a low-key web site containing in-depth information on work that has been successfully undertaken.

    And before anyone tells me to take off my tinfoil hat, I am a Professional Engineer, and am not given to emotional or other sorts of irrational outbursts where science and technology are concerned.

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