Engineer/blogger Robert Rapier writes about the fantasy that many prominent Republican leaders promote, and which much of the GOP base accepts blindly, with respect to petroleum production and the US:
On the Republican side, the common view is that we are awash in oil and gas, if only the environmentalists would clear out and let the oil companies drill. This view was recently articulated by current Republican flavor-of-the-month Newt Gingrich during the CNN Republican Presidential Debate […]
That’s a fairly good summation of a common Republican position: The reason we aren’t energy independent is that we simply aren’t serious enough about it. We can have all the oil we want — live, drive, prosper — if we just get serious. […]
It wasn’t just at the CNN debate, and it is not just Gingrich. Even in the final Iowa debate Gingrich was at it again. And besides Gingrich, Bachmann has been an ardent voice for the fantasy that America has all the oil it could ever use, and other Republican candidates jump on this bandwagon from time to time too.
So while Democrats may undervalue our need for domestic oil, Republicans can be wildly delusional about the prospects for domestic oil production to supply our needs. In each case, there are elements of truth. No doubt we can produce more oil, and without a doubt there remains oil to be discovered. As I have pointed out before, both oil and natural gas production have been on the rise for the past couple of years. In fact, natural gas has set production records. So if prices are high enough, there are marginal sources that will contribute more to U.S. energy supplies. But replacing the 8 million barrels per day that we currently import is wildly unrealistic, and would require the U.S. to greatly exceed the 1970 oil production peak of nearly 10 million barrels of oil per day.[…]
Mr. Rapier then goes on to give an example of this fantasy (of vast oil deposits in the US that could be developed if only the government/environmentalists would get out of the way) by linking to a publication in one of numerous online news sites, and points out that the article depends upon a report produced by the “Institute for Energy Research.”
Now, exactly who are the Institute for Energy Research ? From the wikipedia entry:
[…] IER is a tax-exempt public foundation and is funded entirely by tax deductible contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. No financial support is sought for or accepted from the government. According to the liberal watchdog group, Media Matters, since 1996, $110,000 of IER’s funding has come from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a trust set up by private energy company Koch Industries. IER also received over $300,000 in funding from ExxonMobil, , but has not given to IER since 2007.
The Institute’s CEO, Robert L. Bradley, Jr., was formerly a director of policy analysis at Enron, where he wrote speeches for Kenneth Lay. […]
Yup, same old crowd - Kochs, Enron gang, etc.
I’m being repetitious here, but just to drive the point home: when Gingrich and other prominent Republicans proclaim that the US could free itself of oil imports if we only drilled more here they are being front-men for vested interests in the oil business, who feel free to mislead the American public on the realities of oil and petroleum extraction.
Mr. Rapier went on to track down some of the specifics of the misuse of data by the IER:
In fact, I tracked down the report referenced above from the Institute for Energy Research: North American Energy Inventory. Then I tracked one of the references they used to come up with their estimate of more than a trillion barrels of ‘technically recoverable’ oil in the United States. The source is a U.S. Department of Energy report: ‘Undeveloped Domestic Oil Resources.’ What that report says is quite different than the implications that are being drawn. [He inserts an important DoE chart at this point, recommend viewing it at his article.]
So of the 1.3 trillion barrels of oil from this DOE report, most is not technically recoverable, and the only category that is known to be presently economically recoverable is that tiny sliver of 22 billion barrels that says ‘Proved Reserves.’ This accounts for less than 2% of the 1.1 trillion barrels categorized as ‘Undeveloped Oil In-Place.’
A common problem here is the confusion between resources and reserves. […]
All of that requires more thought than many in those crowds at the GOP “debates” are willing to give - to really understand what is available/affordable versus what may geologically remain from hundreds of millions of years of organic deposits.
Modern American society, physically, was built upon oil. The US is where the first petroleum well was drilled, and for a century the US was the leading producer of oil and we used that wealth to build an energy intensive, highly mobile society. We don’t want to give that up, and so too many of us are unwilling to accept that we have to give it up, or at least modify our way of life in some fundamental ways.