Kuhl's Context-Free Facts

Randy Kuhl's latest blog post makes the following claims about ANWR:

The mean estimate of technically recoverable oil in ANWR is 10.4 billion barrels – all of which is now economically recoverable.
  • That’s more than twice the proven oil reserves in all of Texas.
  • That’s almost half of the total U.S. proven reserve of 21 billion barrels.
  • That represents a possible 50 percent increase in total U.S. proven reserves.

These facts would make one believe that ANWR could make a huge difference in our current oil supply. However, let's look at a couple of other facts from the Reuters' article I linked to earlier:

  • US oil consumption is 20.6 million barrels per day, or 7.5 billion barrels per year.
  • Peak production from ANWR would be 780,000 barrels per day. But that couldn't be accomplished until 2020, when it will be 2% of our daily oil consumption, assuming a steady increase in oil use. Even assuming zero growth, ANWR's peak flow is less than 4% of our current daily consumption.

Whatever your position on drilling in ANWR, it isn't a magic bullet, especially when you put Kuhl's raw numbers in context.


If there is indeed a 12 year gap between deciding to drill and the actual drilling, we could have been taking oil out of the ground starting last year if not for a Democrat filibuster and a President Clinton veto in 1995:


Reading through that article again, they were basing everything on a "what if drilling had been approved in 2001" scenario. Under that scenario, the field would start producing in 2011 and be at peak in 2020.

So I guess it takes 10 years to open a new oil field, and almost 20 years to ramp up production to peak production. If ANWR had been opened in '95, we'd be nearing peak right now.

I really see no alternative on the horizon that will replace oil, and that will be accepted by people who are active in political life.

Many people think:

1. Nuclear is too dangerous, especially the waste
2. Wind is something everyone favors as long as they don't build the windmills in their neck of the woods.
3. Bio-fuels are threatening to raise the price of food to where it can't be bought especially in third world countries.
4. Coal is too dirty
5. Solar power doesn't work as well in some parts of the world due to a lack of available sunshine.

It seems to me that getting away from burning oil, natural gas and coal isn't such a bad idea, but we don't have the technology or the political will to produce power through alternative methods in the quantity we need.

So, it makes sense to me to drill where we can until our country is able to develop the technology and political will to replace the fossil fuels.

Since ANWR is controversial, maybe we'll get a reasonable compromise where drilling there is tied to an increase in fleet efficiency standards, or something similar.

Elmer, you write

1. Nuclear is too dangerous, especially the waste
2. Wind is something everyone favors as long as they don't build the windmills in their neck of the woods.

I agree with you that this is what many people think. But I think those attitudes need to change. Drilling in ANWR is a stop gap, that just puts off the real battle of changing attitudes about alternative sources of energy.

With 3-5, there really are big legitimate problems, though. Not sure what can be done about them.

Exile -

I agree with you on all your points, except I think we are going to need the oil even if it is just a stop gap. Perhaps and all inclusive energy package that includes heavy investment in nuclear and wind power, higher vehicle standards, more money for rail (both passenger and freight), more money for mass transit along with permission to drill in ANWR and offshore in Florida and California.

I think $5/gallon gas will change a lot of attitudes -- it will at least open minds to listen to the technology changes that have happened in the last 40 years since the most recent US nuclear plant was designed.