Word from the U.S. Geological Survey that there could be as much as 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the upper Midwest, across North Dakota and Montana should be huge news, except, without a consumption cutback, it won’t last long.
At a consumption of 20.7 million barrels per day of oil, the find wouldn’t last half a year. That’s the rate Americans use petroleum according to the latest figures from the Energy Information Agency.
The good news about finding oil in the United States is that it could mean increased production and a little less foreign dependence.
The bad news is that every time an oil find is made, the move away from conservation and alternative forms of energy occurs.
Consider that the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Northern Alaska had an estimated total recovery of up to 13 billion barrels of oil when it came on line in 1977.
Its oil production is declining, according to several oil analysts, just 30 years after the wells began producing oil.
So, a find of 4 billion barrels doesn’t equate to complete energy independence, given that all 4 billion barrels can’t be produced at once. But it could buy a little breathing room.
That extra time should be used to continue down the road America has taken: Developing and perfecting alternate sources of energy such as coal to liquid fuel. There is much to be done with development of new types of solar energy, which every home could use.
Work continues to develop higher-miles-per-gallon American-designed and built hybrid automobiles that could avoid turning on their gasoline engines altogether in a typical day of driving.
All of those efforts must continue and should not be sidetracked by word that more oil could be coming at some future date.
The oil find in the Bakken Formation in the northern Plains states should bring development and jobs, but the find should not be considered a solution to the nation’s energy problems.
True independence will only come with a continuous solution that has no foreseeable finite limit.
To ignore that means the United States will continue to have to play a petropolitical game without end, standing at the mercy of those who have the most oil to feed a petroleum-hungry public.