President Bush is lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling.
It doesnt mean much as Congress needs to lift its ban before drilling could be allowed but I thought it would give me an opportunity to discuss just how much oil is thought to be out there and what that really means to us here in the US.
It can be difficult to understand how much oil is really out there waiting for our rigs to come and pump it out. Numbers between 86 billion barrels (in the OCS) to as few as 3.6 billion barrels have been spewed about. These are pretty disparate numbers so how many barrels are we really talking about and how does that translate into what the US is actually consuming?
As expected, it all depends on whom you are talking to. Engineers tend to give three numbers when talking about how much oil there is in an area. The high, the mean, and the low. Supporters of lifting the ban tend to use the high number while people opposing the lifting of the ban use the low numbers.
In addition, we talk in billions of barrels, which is a pretty abstract concept. How long does a barrel last and how many barrels do we use in the U.S. each day?
Lets look at ANWR, or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The high, mean and low numbers often used are 16 billion barrels, 10.4 billion barrels, and 5.7 billion barrels respectively. These numbers fluctuate depending on what website you are checking out but not enough to really skew the outcome.
The US uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil a day with 45% of that total going towards gas. Doing some quick math that means that ANWR has enough oil to supply the United States for just over 2 years at the high number, just over 1 year at the mean number, and just over 10 months at the low number.
Doesnt sound so impressive when it is broken down into units that mean something to non-petroleum engineers.
President Bush says there could be as much as 18 billion barrels of oil just sitting off our coast if Congress would just go and drill it. Putting that in perspective, it comes to a supply that will last us 2 years and five months. Others suggest that there is more like 3.6 billion offshore that isnt already being tapped. That would only give us an additional 6 months of oil.
Also, none of this oil would see our gas tanks or plastic factories or chapstick tubes until several years from now.
There has to be a better idea than just drilling for more oil right? I mean, wouldnt it make more sense to take the amount of money we would spend drilling and give it to companies who are developing renewable energy? Give them the ten years we would be waiting for ANWR or Offshore oil to hit the market and see what they come up with?
I should point out that i am writing all this from the local Discount Tires where i sit and wait for the tire monkeys to fit my birdmobile with new Mohave Tires.
Fair disclosure and all...