Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Much Oil Is Left?

A couple of commonly asked questions, with answers.

How much oil is left in the Arctic?

No one knows for sure how much oil is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The estimates have changed over time. The estimates range anywhere from 5 billion (minimum) to 16 billion barrels (maximum). The U.S. uses about 7 billion barrels every year.

Drilling in the ANWR? It's putting a band-aid on a grenade wound.

If anyone thinks that the ANWR will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, or even dramaticallly reduce our dependence on foreign oil, they simply don't understand the facts.

Has someone said for sure when the world's total oil supply will run out? Is it in our lifetime? 50 years from now? Maybe 500?

According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, there are about 1.3 trillion barrels of oil left in the world right now.

According to OPEC, the world uses about 31 billion barrels of oil every year. That number will go up 35.4 billion by 2015, 37 billion by 2020, and 41 billion by 2030. Thus, over the next 21 years, the world will average about 36 billion barrels of oil each year.

Thus, barring any new major oil discoveries, the world's oil supply will be effectively gone in 36 years.

Ending our dependence on foreign oil? Band-aid. Grenade wound.

We absolutely MUST start focusing RIGHT NOW on finding alternative fuel sources.

Which candidate has vowed to find alternative fuel sources within 10 years? Obama.

Which candidate hasn't said a word about doing anything other than continuing to drill for oil that is going to run out? McCain.

And while McCain has been opposed to drilling in the ANWR on environmental grounds, he said a few months ago that he would "look at the issue again," and he has since chosen a strong pro-ANWR-drilling supporter as his running mate.

Back in July, before being chosen as Veep, Palin was quoted as saying that she intended to do her best to "convince" McCain to change his mind about drilling in the ANWR. How much more will she work to "convince" him now that she's his running mate?

And why would Palin be so strongly behind drilling in the ANWR? Oh, I dunno, maybe because Alaskans get money directly into their pockets from oil revenues on the northern slope. Every citizen of Alaska gets several thousand dollars each year as part of "profit sharing" from oil drilling. OF COURSE they think we should drill in the ANWR! In the rest of the world, we call this "profiteering."

As for how much oil is left in the world, my numbers above assume that every last drop can be profitably extracted. In fact, the profitable nature of the oil would end LONG before we actually got to that last barrel. This means, of course, that the oil will run out even quicker - maybe within 25 or 30 years.

The "profit" issue is one reason that drilling in the ANWR has only recently become a hot topic. It's been discussed for many years, but because oil prices were so low, it would not have been profitable for oil companies to extract the oil. It would have cost them more per barrel to extract it than what they could sell it for. Now that oil prices are so high, the oil companies know they can make an absolute BUNDLE on the ANWR oil, so (big surprise) now the oil companies want the concession to drill in the ANWR.

And the politicians who have the oil companies in their back pocket are suddenly pushing for ANWR drilling and acting like the ANWR is going to solve all our problems.

Band-aid. Grenade. Profiteering.

Those are the only three words anyone needs to know when it comes to the ANWR and to the red herring of "ending our dependence on foreign oil."

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