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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