US: Most energy resources in the world and most incoherent energy policy

posted at 4:00 pm on March 26, 2011 by Bruce McQuain

As Peter Glover says, writing in the Energy Tribune, this ought to be the lead story in every American paper and on every American news show.  But it’s overshadowed by Japan, Libya and other developments in the world.

America’s combined energy resources are, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR), the largest on earth. They eclipse Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th) and Canada (6th) combined – and that’s without including America’s shale oil deposits and, in the future, the potentially astronomic impact of methane hydrates.

The US and Russia are the two most resource rich countries in the world.  Here’s the chart that shows how huge our advantage is:

Note it says “Oil Equivalent” on the left side.  That’s because it includes coal.  Yeah, that icky, nasty stuff that we’re trying to ban or make it supremely expensive to use.

The CRS estimates US recoverable coal reserves at around 262 billion tons (not including further massive, difficult to access, Alaskan reserves). Given the US consumes around 1.2 billion tons a year, that’s a couple of centuries of coal use, at least.

In fact, the US has 28% of the world’s coal.

Natural gas?

In 2009 the CRS upped its 2006 estimate of America’s enormous natural gas deposits by 25 percent to around 2,047 trillion cubic feet, a conservative figure given the expanding shale gas revolution. At current rates of use that’s enough for around 100 years. Then there is still the, as yet largely publicly untold, story of methane hydrates to consider, a resource which the CRS reports alludes to as “immense…possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels.” According to the Inhofe’s EPW, “For perspective, if just 3 percent of this resource can be commercialized … at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would be enough to provide America’s natural gas for more than 400 years.”

So, the possibility of 400 years worth of NG, a couple hundred years worth of coal – but what about oil?

Well shucks, seems we have the potential to be quite free of foreign oil, doesn’t it?

While the US is often depicted as having only a tiny minority of the world’s oil reserves at around 28 billion barrels (based on the somewhat misleading figure of ‘proven reserves’) according to the CRS in reality it has around 163 billion barrels. As Inhofe’s EPW press release comments, “That’s enough oil to maintain America’s current rates of production and replace imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years”

Of course that all assumes we do something about taking advantage of the resources we have and actually putting ourselves in a position where we’re not at the mercy of foreign sources of the same sorts of products.

Obviously and hopefully, we’ll come up with affordable and available renewable energy products while we’re doing that.

However, we have no coherent energy plan from this administration.  Instead it seems to have gone to war with the oil industry and is doing everything it can to slow its ability to find and exploit these resources.  19,000 jobs and 1.1 billion in earnings have been lost since the imposition of the administration’s moratorium.  Both former Presidents Bush and Clinton have spoken out against the delays.   And the administration remains in contempt of a court order which ordered them to speed up the permitting process.  As a result the EIA has estimated a loss of 74,000 barrels a day of production due to the moratorium this year.

Meanwhile our President touts foreign oil, our investment in it and claims we’ll be its “best customer”.

As Glover says:

Meanwhile US energy policy persists in pursuing the myth that renewables are the economically viable future, with fossil fuels already, as the president said in January, “yesterday’s energy”. With 85 percent of global energy set to come from fossil fuels till at least 2035 no matter what wishful thinkers may prefer, current US energy policy – much like European – is pure political pantomime.

Couldn’t agree more.  We sit on a veritable treasure trove of natural resources which could actually make us energy independent and we have an administration which is doing everything in its power to not just keep us dependent on foreign oil, but to increase our dependence.

Bruce McQuain blogs at Questions and Observations (QandO), Blackfive, the Washington Examiner and the Green Room.  Follow him on Twitter: @McQandO

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The EPA is so busy butting into areas that they don’t belong that the aren’t doing what they are supposed to do.

In California, home to two seaside nuclear plants located close to earthquake fault lines, federal officials said four of the 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. The Environmental Protection Agency said the machines operate outdoors year-round and periodically need maintenance, but did not fix them until a few days after low levels of radiation began drifting toward the mainland U.S.

The EPA appears to be more lax than the nuclear industry.

J_Crater on March 27, 2011 at 9:58 AM

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and other things being equal, the more carbon dioxide in the air, the warmer the planet. Every bit of carbon dioxide that we emit warms the planet. But the issue is not whether carbon dioxide warms the planet, but how much.

J_Crater on March 26, 2011 at 7:03 PM

CO2 responds to temperature. And therefore after that, it is possible that CO2 may have a negligible effect upon temperature.
But CO2 is not a driver of climate.
Temperature records through ice cores, for instance, show rising CO2 levels when temperature rises.
No scientist has been able to prove that CO2 drives temperature changes in the atmosphere.
This is worth repeating over & over again bcs so many people keep perpetuating this lie & it is simply not true.
If you concede this to be true, then it leaves the door open for these AGW people to attack.
The point should be driven home that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere actually increase in RESPONSE to rising temperatures.

Badger40 on March 27, 2011 at 11:01 AM

If people were so damned worried about ‘global warming’, then they’d be after anything that released water vapor into the air.
THAT is your major ‘greenhouse’ gas.
THAT is the gas that holds a lot of heat.

Badger40 on March 27, 2011 at 11:02 AM

turfmann on March 27, 2011 at 6:24 AM

For all of that you really didn’t come up with any practical solution other than Drill Here, Drill Now. I agree with ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’, but I don’t see how that alone practically comes close to achieving the goals you set out, except for the energy independence one.

DarkCurrent on March 27, 2011 at 8:53 AM

I am of the opinion that much of the heartache we feel for our nation is a direct result of being reliant upon foreign sources of energy.

If we were drilling like mad off the East Coast of the US for our oil, would we have been so quick to come to the aid of Kuwait when Iraq invaded – and everything that followed from that invasion right up to the present?

Would it be difficult to construct a dozen other questions just like the one above to illustrate the corrosive effect foreign energy sources from hostile countries is having upon our own nation in terms of national security?

As Washington said two centuries ago: Foreign entanglements.

turfmann on March 27, 2011 at 11:22 AM

I am of the opinion that much of the heartache we feel for our nation is a direct result of being reliant upon foreign sources of energy.

turfmann on March 27, 2011 at 11:22 AM

I don’t disagree with that, but you said among other goals:

It should be our GOAL to completely DESTROY the Islamist threat to human liberty – UTTERLY, for it is incompatible with the basic rights of human beings to be free.

How does ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ achieve that? Granted, less US treasure would flow to the Islamic world as a result, but more than half of the world’s Muslims live in countries that export little or no oil, Afghanistan and Pakistan being two examples.

I don’t see how you manage to completely destroy the Islamist threat simply through ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’.

DarkCurrent on March 27, 2011 at 11:32 AM

I don’t see how you manage to completely destroy the Islamist threat simply through ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’.

DarkCurrent on March 27, 2011 at 11:32 AM

“Drill here, drill now” means we wouldn’t have to pretend to be friends with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, nor would we have to have gas stations in America franchised by companies owned by Hugo Chavez’s administration. I can sort of see where he’s coming from.

gryphon202 on March 27, 2011 at 11:48 AM

“Drill here, drill now” means we wouldn’t have to pretend to be friends with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, nor would we have to have gas stations in America franchised by companies owned by Hugo Chavez’s administration. I can sort of see where he’s coming from.

gryphon202 on March 27, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Sure. Still doesn’t seem sufficient “to completely DESTROY the Islamist threat to human liberty – UTTERLY” does it?

DarkCurrent on March 27, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Doesn’t really matter how much we have if we’re not allowed to get to it…or if it costs X amount of energy to access that potential energy in the ground. The advantage of Saudi Oil is that the natural gases there push it up. Over here, most oil has to be pumped up (using electricity to do so) or microwaved as in the case of oil sands (again, electricity needed).

One would think from a national security standpoint all resources (including nuclear, solar, wind) would be utilized in order to make sure that the lights stay on, hospitals and schools (I know, low priority on that one), military installations, food and fuel distribution stays open. Yeah, Disney World might have to close down, but that we can function and survive is more important.

The other factor to consider is that if I own a petroleum company I can sell to whomever I want-there is no guarantee that it will be sold to U.S. customers or at a fair price since oil refineries aren’t likely to be built by mom and pop on SBA loans and therefore oil production, refining and distribution is a virtual monopoly.

Companies have no loyalty to the U.S. This meme that says otherwise should have gone the way of the Do Do bird when they started exporting operations overseas to other countries in order to make more $. Those that call for privatization of this and that either have a vested interest in making some dough, or don’t realize that even the private sector is being increasingly government-controlled, but without the oversight (no matter how poor) of public operations.

So the only choice left would be to nationalize America’s energy resources which is right up a Marxist community organizer’s alley.

Free enterprise and Capitalism is clashing headlong into certain realities that aren’t going to magically disappear or give way. Capitalism needs energy and resources to feed it, and the Socialists are, of course, historically aware of this. Control what comes out of the ground, energy, money, and labor then you have the Age of Socialism.

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

While you’re generally correct as far as oil selling, I think there’s something to be said for transportation costs. Moving crude in supertankers costs time and money, and incurs more risk than selling it locally.

dominigan on March 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Seems to me that we have a very coherent energy policy in place and have had so for some time. Use all of the Midle East reserves before we use ours. Then after they wast all there money on weapons and indoor sky runs, they will have to kiss our fat ass for everything.

jpcpt03 on March 28, 2011 at 3:22 PM