Affordable energy is the lifeblood of a strong and vibrant economy, and the massive supply of available energy resources in North America means that the United States is literally sitting on the greatest hope to create jobs, revive our economy, and again lead the world in energy production. Yet recent years have been marked by increasingly onerous regulatory barriers to the promise of affordable domestic energy. Government policies have been built on flawed and static assumptions about energy resources, leading to a 40 year decline in energy production. Federal lands — both onshore and offshore — are locked in outdated moratoriums and other bureaucratic delays.
On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, the Institute for Energy Research releases a groundbreaking report about North America’s vast energy resources. The facts of this report shatter the myth of energy scarcity and empower the American people — not politicians — to set the course for our energy future. With hundreds of years of supplies of affordable energy under our feet, and the ability to produce these resources safely and responsible, that future can be bright.
North America is blessed with enough energy supplies to promote and sustain economic growth for many generations. The government’s own reports detail this, and Congress was advised of our energy wealth when the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress released a report showing that the United States’ combined recoverable oil, natural gas, and coal endowment is the largest on Earth.
The amount of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States is more than 1.4 trillion barrels, with the largest deposits located offshore, in portions of Alaska, and in shale in the Rocky Mountain West. When combined with resources from Canada and Mexico, total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels.
That is more than the world has used since the first oil well was drilled over 150 years ago in Titusville, Pennsylvania. To put this in context, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves. For comparative purposes, the technically recoverable oil in North America could fuel the present needs in the United states of seven billion barrels per year for around 250 years.
Moreover, it is important to note that that “reserves” estimates are constantly in flux. For example, in 1980, the U.S. had oil reserves of roughly 30 billion barrels. Yet from 1980 through 2010, we produced over 77 billion barrels of oil. In other words, over the last 30 years, we produced over 150 percent of our proved reserves.
Restrictions in the form of federal bans and leasing combined with declining offerings of lease acreage mean only about 2.2 percent of America’s offshore acreage is currently leased for production.
Proved reserves of natural gas in the United States and throughout North America are enormous, and the total amount of recoverable natural gas is even more impressive. The EIA estimates that the United States has 272.5 trillion cubic feet of proved reserves of natural gas. The total amount of natural gas that is recoverable in North America is approximately 4.2 quadrillion (4,244 trillion) cubic feet.
Given that U.S. consumption is currently about 24 trillion cubic feet per, there is enough natural gas in North America to last the United States for over 175 years at current rates of consumption.
Total supplies of natural gas in North America dwarf those of other countries. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have more technically recoverable natural gas resources than the combined total proved natural gas reserves found in Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan.
With respect to total recoverable resources, however, North America’s combined coal supplies are even more staggering. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have over 497 billion short tons of recoverable coal, or nearly three times as much as Russia, which has the world’s second largest reserves. North America’s recoverable coal resources are bigger than the five largest non-North American countries’ reserves combined (Russia, China, Australia, India, Ukraine).
North American recoverable coal could provide enough electricity for the United States for about 500 years at current levels of consumption.
While the US and North America contain enormous energy wealth, US policies have increasingly made exploration, development, production and consumption of that energy more difficult.
Therefore, a scarcity of good policies, not a scarcity of energy, is responsible for US energy insecurity.