Get ready for the White House to ignore their own science experts again. The Department of Energy commissioned a study by the National Petroleum Council which was meant to help determine our long range energy strategy. Their conclusion? We need to head on up to the Arctic basin and drill baby drill.
The U.S. should immediately begin a push to exploit its enormous trove of oil in the Arctic waters off of Alaska, or risk a renewed reliance on imported oil in the future, an Energy Department advisory council says in a study to be released Friday.
The U.S. has drastically cut imports and transformed itself into the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas by tapping huge reserves in shale rock formations. But the government predicts that the shale boom won’t last much beyond the next decade.
In order for the U.S. to keep domestic production high and imports low, oil companies should start probing the Artic now because it takes 10 to 30 years of preparation and drilling to bring oil to market, according to a draft of the study’s executive summary obtained by the Associated Press.
The energy industry experts I speak with regularly have a variety of opinions on this and there are some known unknowns in the mix, as Donald Rumsfeld would say. The total amount of oil available in the large, currently accessible shale formations may only last for a decade, but it might run for a quarter century or more. Estimating deposits is nearly as much an art as a science and estimates are precisely what the name implies. Also, we can’t predict what the next technological advancements will be which might reach deeper or access fuel which is currently not economically viable to extract.
But with all of that said, it’s true… eventually the shale oil will dry up, and when it does we need to be ready to get to work on a large scale in the Arctic. It will take the better part of a decade just to identify the best places to drill, get rigs in place and overcome the unique challenges presented by working in that environment. It will be a growth industry to be sure, and we should make sure that we are positioned to take best advantage of it.
And how much oil are we talking about? It’s one heck of a lot. The Arctic basin is estimated to contain fully one fifth of the remaining oil reserves on the planet and as much as a third of the remaining natural gas. It could meet our needs and keep the United States positioned as a global energy leader for a half century or more.
So will we do it? Of course not. At least not with the current administration in charge. We couldn’t even get these people to approve a pipeline for existing resources. They will continue to insist that we need to abandon our “addiction” to oil and rely on new energy types which haven’t proven themselves viable for wide, sustained usage. But assuming we get a new President and sensible leadership at Energy, we may eventually get started on the project. We’re already seeing dividends from our new energy dominance around the world in terms of not only economic advantage, but security in foreign affairs. It would be a shame to let all that slip away.