Green Room

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

posted at 11:17 am on March 25, 2011 by

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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A properly formed policy is derived from a strategy and serves the strategy. A properly formed strategy is derived from the desired outcome and a realistic assessment of the conditions.

There is not one link to trust in that chain where Obama is concerned.

njcommuter on March 25, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Do you really want energy prices to get so high that those resources become economically viable to tap? I agree that our lack of a coordinated and coherent energy policy is reprehensible but that has been the case for decades. I would love to see something change in that respect but modernizing the electricity grid would have the same effect (jobs/reduction of imported energy) and still leave options for future generations.

lexhamfox on March 25, 2011 at 11:34 AM

I have said for years that the so-called ‘elites’ do not want us on their roads and their airplanes. This is just another arm of the octopus, helping to rope us all into a neat little corrall where we can be more easily managed.

maryo on March 25, 2011 at 11:50 AM

lexhamfox, many of those resources are already economically recoverable, especially given new technologies. If we let the market do its job, the ones that can be recovered economically at current prices will be. That’s what markets do.

We have new technologies that can turn gas into oil, coal into oil or gas (more efficiently than the old ways), and can make the hydrocarbon markets truly interchangeable. But without the freedom to exploit new reserves, there’s no point in doing it.

njcommuter on March 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Yes, I’ve been saying this for years. It is nice to see some charts and number to back up what I already knew.

We have never had a real fuel shortage, or a real energy shortage. They have all been artificial, and energy is generated, and not a resource. The reason we have energy shortages is purely political.

woodNfish on March 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM

I would love to see something change in that respect but modernizing the electricity grid would have the same effect (jobs/reduction of imported energy) and still leave options for future generations.

lexhamfox on March 25, 2011 at 11:34 AM


What does modernizing our power grid have to do with the price of gasoline?

We’re swimming in natural resources yet the left’s agenda is to make sure we’re starved of energy … killing business and industry, not to mention reducing the mobility of the average American.

darwin on March 25, 2011 at 3:30 PM

I just wonder if some oil company or coal company had the guts(or whatever you might call it) to just go drill and tell bho and team to stuff it? What could bho and team do? Go to court? The court said bho and team are in contempt for the drilling ban. We have got to get our Republic’s natural resources and not pay countries that hate our guts for oil! I know the epa would be all over these companies, but so what?

letget on March 25, 2011 at 3:37 PM

njcommuter on March 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM

I think you should read the report that all this is based on.

The data was never meant to be summarized like this and the report even says so.

Here is a link to the actual report…

It is hard to get to and I’m sorry if the link provided doesn’t work but if it doesn’t then search through the open CRS archive and you will find it. The CRS didn’t release an update… a bunch of Senators just arranged the numbers differently and did a press release.

There is a reason why this is isn’t in the press. I’ll agree that we need a policy and that the current situation is lame but this report and it’s conclusions are very misleading. Most of the most important stuff is in the introduction.

lexhamfox on March 25, 2011 at 10:16 PM

lexhamfox, the effect of new technologies is to make the pyramid shallower. The gas-to-oil and coal-to-oil technologies I mentioned are newer than the report, and the current drilling boom in North Dakota is testimony to the degree to which economics now favors exploiting these resources.

The point about water use is well-taken, but that is probably not insurmountable and technical refinements will reduce the amount of water needed over time IF we allow the initial petroleum extraction to procede in sufficient volume.

Conservatives, you see, believe in real progress.

njcommuter on March 26, 2011 at 12:15 AM

Imagine how cheap energy would become if we were to tap our own reserves.

It would free up billions upon billions of dollars for other economic activity, contribute billions towards the government’s fiscal health, employ tens to hundreds of thousands of Americans, and dramatically reduce the flow of U.S. dollars towards countries that use them to fund terrorism.

But, since the goal isn’t cheaper energy or economic production, the left will fight it tooth and nail.

BadgerHawk on March 26, 2011 at 8:29 AM

Sounds like the Sarah Palin Energy Doctrine.

JimK on March 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM

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Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Ed Morrissey on March 26, 2011 at 3:35 PM

njcommuter on March 26, 2011 at 12:15 AM

I wasn’t concerned about the water issue. I was drawing attention to the charts in the press release and how those numbers are arrived at. For the US numbers they are throwing in everything they can possibly get their hands on while only proven reserves for other countries. I recently did some finance guarantees for one of the new pipelines there (North Dakota) and those come under proven reserves even in the old report. The hold ups in ND and MT are not political… at the end of last year the big issue for them was pumping more than they can actually transport to market. Efficiency through technology is factored into the CRS findings as a steady appreciation although I can’t recall what they use as an annual percentage.

lexhamfox on March 26, 2011 at 3:15 PM

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