"North American energy independence by 2020"

Guest post by David Middleton

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently released an outline of his plan to achieve “North American energy independence” by 2020. While the white paper (1) is short on specific details, it does contain quite a few good ideas and some supporting documentation. For anyone interested in a business plan approach to energy policy, it’s well worth reading. Rather than focus on the details of the plan, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see if “North American energy independence by 2020” was even technically possible. If it’s not technically possible, then it’s not really relevant whether or not it would be economically advisable or politically achievable. Since North America already pretty well has the capacity to be energy independent in terms of coal, natural gas, uranium and electricity generation, I’m only going to look at oil and natural gas liquids.

So, without any further prologue, I’m going to jump right into some numbers.

Can we “get there from here”?

According to the American Petroleum Institute (2) the current estimate of undiscovered technically recoverable Federal resources (UTRR-Fed) of crude oil currently stands at 116.3 billion barrels.

Figure 1. U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Federal Resources (American Petroleum Institute).

The UTRR-Fed are concentrated in areas close to existing exploration and exploitation infrastructure. The Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Lower 48 States comprise 88% of the UTRR-Fed.

Region Offshore/Onshore Billions of Barrels of Crude Oil % Cum. %
Gulf of Mexico Offshore 44.9 39% 39%
Alaska Offshore 26.6 23% 61%
Alaska Onshore 18.8 16% 78%
Lower 48 Onshore 11.7 10% 88%
Pacific Offshore 10.5 9% 97%
Atlantic Offshore 3.8 3% 100%
Total 116.3 100%

There is no reason that these potential resources could not be exploited within the next few decades if the U.S. government adopted regulatory policies geared toward exploitation.

If industry converted the UTRR-Fed into proved developed producing reserves of crude oil over the next 25 years, this is what might happen to U.S. domestic crude oil production:

Figure 2. Potential exploitation scenario for the UTRR-Fed.

I think that it is technically possible that US crude oil and natural gas liquid production could reach 14.4 million BOPD by 2028 and peak at 15.7 million BOPD by 2032. If U.S. demand remained in the 18-20 million BOPD range, the United States could come very close to being self-sufficient in crude oil. I also took the liberty of including 73 billion barrels of Green River Oil Shale production from 2022-2100 (more on this later).

Canada expects to double its oil production by 2030 (3). Assuming that Canada’s domestic consumption remains stable and the U.S. remains Canada’s primary export market, Canadian imports could also be expected to double by 2030. While Mexican oil production is currently in decline and Pemex is one of the most poorly managed national oil companies (NOC) in the world, Mexico has huge potential in the area of undiscovered resources (4). Mexico does have the potential to stabilize its current production levels. If Canada doubles its production by 2030 and continues to increase its production through the end of this century and Mexico stabilizes at roughly its current levels, this is what U.S. domestic production plus Canadian and Mexican imports might look like:

Figure 3. U.S. UTRR-Fed plus Canadian and Mexican imports.

Based on these numbers, North American energy independence could be achieved by 2027.

116 billion barrels of ”undiscovered technically recoverable oil” is equal to about 16 years worth of current US consumption. However, past history shows us that gov’t agencies always grossly underestimate what the oil industry will find and produce. Alaska’s North Slope has already produced 16 billion barrels of petroleum liquids. Currently developed areas will ultimately produce a total of about 30 billion barrels. The government’s original forecast for the North Slope’s total production was 10 billion barrels. The current USGS estimate for undiscovered oil in the Bakken play of Montana & North Dakota is 25 times larger than the same agency’s 1995 estimate. In 1987, the MMS undiscovered resource estimate for the Gulf of Mexico was 9 billion barrels. Today it is 45 billion barrels (2).

The MMS increased the estimate of undiscovered oil in the Gulf of Mexico from 9 billion barrels in 1987 to the current 45 billion barrels because we discovered a helluva a lot more than 9 billion barrels in the Gulf over the last 20 years. Almost all of the large US fields discovered since 1988 were discovered in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1988, it was unclear whether or not the deepwater plays would prove to be economic.The largest field in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell’s Mars Field, was discovered in 1989. Prior to this discovery, no one thought that economically viable Miocene-aged or older reservoirs existed in deepwater. Mars has produced 1 billion barrels of oil and 1.25 TCF of natural gas since coming on line in 1996. It is currently producing over 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Dozens of Mars-class fields have been discovered over the last 20 years… Most of those have only barely come on line over the last 5 years.

The most significant play in the Gulf of Mexico, the Lower Tertiary, wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination in 1988. These are massive discoveries – BP’s recently discovered Tiber Field on Keathly Canyon Block 102 is estimated to contain 3-6 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Several recently discovered fields are expected to come on line at more than 100,000 bbl/day. This play is still in its infancy.

Based on the gov’t’s track record, the estimated 116 billion barrels of undiscovered oil under Federal lands is more likely to be 680 billion barrels. That’s close to 100 years worth of current US consumption – And that’s just the undiscovered oil under Federal mineral leases.

When you factor in shale oil (kerogen) plays, the numbers become staggering. The Green River formation oil shale has more than 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil just in the Piceance Basin of Colorado.

  • There are at least 1.8 trillion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil in just the Green River formation (DOE).
  • Oil shale deposits like the Green River formation (technically a marl) are currently economic at sustained oil prices of $54/bbl, possibly as low as $35/bbl (DOE).

In my hypothetical production forecast, I projected Green River oil shale production to reach 15 million BOPD by 2096. Am I being overly optimistic in projecting more than 15 million barrels per day (BOPD) of production from oil shales by 2100? Shell estimates that they could be producing 500,000 barrels per day from the Picenance Basin with a very small footprint using an in situ recovery process (5):

Technical Viability and Commercial Readiness (pp 18-24)

Shell has tested its in-situ process at a very small scale on Shell’s private holdings in the Piceance Basin. The energy yield of the extracted liquid and gas is equal to that predicted by the standardized assay test.13 The heating energy required for this process equals about one-sixth the energy value of the extracted product. These tests have indicated that the process may be technically and economically viable.

This approach requires no subsurface mining and thus may be capable of achieving high resource recovery in the deepest and thickest portions of the U.S. oil shale resource. Most important, the Shell in-situ process can be implemented without the massive disturbance to land that would be caused by the only other method capable of high energy/resource recovery—namely, deep surface mining combined with surface retorting. The footprint of this approach is exceptionally small. When applied to the thickest oil shale deposits of the Piceance Basin, drilling in about 150 acres per year could support sustained production of a half-million barrels of oil per day and 500 billion cubic feet per year of natural gas.


Once oil shale development reaches the production growth stage, how fast and how large the industry grows will depend on the economic competitiveness of shale derived oil with other liquid fuels and on how the issues raised in Chapter Five are ultimately resolved. If long lead-time activities are started in the prior stage, the first follow-on commercial operations could begin production within four years. Counting from the start of the production growth stage and assuming that 200,000 barrels per day of increased production capacity can be added each year, total production would reach 1 million barrels per day in seven years, 2 million barrels per day in 12 years, and 3 million barrels in 17 years.

Assuming a 12-yr lead time to reach the production growth stage, it will take ~30 years to reach 3 million barrels per day. If production continued to grow at a rate of 1 million BOPD every 5 years… Oil shale production from just the Piceance Basin could reach 15 million BOPD by the end of this century.

The hydrocarbon characteristics of the the oil shales of the Green River formation in the Piceance Basin are superior to those of the Athabasca oil sands. The hydrocarbon areal density is about 13 times that of the Athabasca deposits. The Green River hydrocarbons are not technically “oil;” it’s a form of kerogen. But, for or refining purposes, it’s oil. It will be booked as oil, just like the Athabasca tar sand oil is. It’s a high-grade refinery feedstock…

“Kerogen can be converted to superior quality jet fuel, #2 diesel, and other high value by-products.”

Canada is currently producing ~ 1 million barrels of oil per day from Athabasca oil sand deposits. They expect to increase that to 2 million barrels per day over the next decade. The Green River oil shale deposits in the Piceance basin could easily outperform Athabasca within a decade and with a much smaller environmental footprint.

Athabasca oil sands are currently economically competitive with the OPEC basket. Green River formation oil shales are superior, by a wide margin, to Athabasca oil sands. The Green River oil shales would yield 100,000 bbl of 38° API sweet refinery feed per 160,000 tons of ore & overburden. Athabasca oil sands yield 100,000 bbl of 34° sweet refinery feed per 430,000 tons of ore & overburden. The unconventional oil is actually very light and very sweet; the OPEC Basket is actually heavier (32.7° API).

Athabasca is economically competitive now. Green River could be economically competitive now. The only obstacles to US energy security are environmental terrorists activists and the U.S. government.

“Peak Oil,” if it exists, won’t be reached for hundreds of years if the U.S. government would just get out of the way. About 80% of the most prospective Green River deposits are under Federal leases. The Obama administration effectively blocked exploitation of the Green River oil shale earlier this year.

Does Policy Matter?

Bad policy certainly matters. “One bipartisan policy tradition is to deny Americans the use of our own resources” (6):

Figure 4. Bad Policy Matters.

The Obama administration’s energy policy has been disastrous as it relates to oil production. While it is true that U.S. domestic oil production has been rising over the last few years, all of the growth has come from onshore plays in Texas and North Dakota:

Figure 5. Comparison of daily oil production rates: Federal Gulf of Mexico, Texas and North Dakota (EIA).

Some of the Texas (less than 1%) and North Dakota (~11%) production is from Federal leases. I downloaded the onshore Federal lease production data for Texas and North Dakota from Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR) and subtracted the minuscule Federal lease production from the State and private lease production in those two States. I added that to theFederal Gulf of Mexico production (the GOM is the Big Kahuna of Federal lease oil production):

Figure 6. State and private lease production in Texas and North Dakota vs. Federal lease production in the Gulf of Mexico, North Dakota and Texas.

All of the net growth in US domestic oil production since 2009 has come from State and private leases in Texas and North Dakota.

Since President Obama took office, Federal lease oil production in the GOM, TX and ND has declined by 79 million barrels per year; while State and private lease production in TX & ND has grown by 205 million barrels per year. The decline in Gulf of Mexico has occurred during a period of high oil prices and is directly attributable to the unlawful drilling moratorium and “permitorium” imposed in the wake of the Macondo blowout and oil spill. Drilling permits that once took 30 days to be approved now take more than 300 days. Even relatively simple things like the approval of development plan (DOCD) revisions are being drawn out to nearly 300 days. The average delays for independent oil companies are currently 1.4 years on the shelf and almost 2 years in deepwater (7):

Figure 7. Average Gulf of Mexico permit delays (Quest Offsore Resources).

Between the “permitorium” and high product prices, many of the best, most capable drilling rigs have been moved overseas. Once we manage to get permits approved, the delays in obtaining a rig can be almost as long as the permit delays were. In this “dynamic regulatory environment,” wells can’t be drilled quickly enough to compensate for decline rates, much less to increase production.


(1) Romney for President, Inc. 2012. “The Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence.”

(2) American Petroleum Institute. 2012. “Energizing America: Facts for Addressing Energy Policy.”

(3) CBC News. 2012. Canadian oil production to double by 2030, industry predicts.

(4) Talwani, Manik. 2011. “Oil and Gas in Mexico: Geology, Production Rates and Reserves.” James Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

(5) Bartis, James T. 2005. “Oil shale development in the United States : prospects and policy issues.” RAND Corporation.

(6) Ford, Harold. 2011. “Washington vs. Energy Security.The Wall Street Journal.

(7) Quest Offshore. 2o11. “The State of the Offshore U.S. Oil and Gas Industry.”

EIA. US Crude Oil & Petroleum Liquids Consumption

EIA. US Natural Gas Plant Liquids Production

EIA. US Crude Oil and Natural Gas Condensate Production


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Fossil is a fine idea, but to be honest, we should be using thorium or a thorium/hybrid reactor. If it wasn’t for the massive environuts back 30 years ago, we’d be much further along in nuclear technologies than we are now. The article in itself though isn’t bad, one thing to remember. We could have been there today. If we started it 10 years ago, when they said “we wouldn’t be there for 10 years.”

Luther Wu

Just as I thought… a bunch of isolationists. How wrong can a plan be! Imagine, ending payments to the sources funding most of the terrorist movements worldwide? Wouldn’t it better that we reach out to them instead and show them we mean them no harm?


Thankyou for an excellent summary. I write in hope of encouraging people to read it all instead of ‘skimming’. It deserves a through read by everybody.

Rud Istvan

It is not technically possible. Pease read my book, Gaia’s Limits. In addition to setting out the facts, it provides a lot of references to other sources. Mitt should know better; I am disappointed in an old classmate and colleague.

Tom G(ologist)

Hello Dave and thanks. As a fellow geologist (mining and natural gas consulting industry) I appreciate the level of detail and scope of knowledge you provide here. If it is OK with you, I would like to cite/reference some of this material on my blog which I keep mostly for my students’ benefit but I occasionally post a link to it here.

Thanks for the great, factual info.
For a political history of the fight over opening up offshore drilling in Virginia (one of Romney’s proposals) see my article here:

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

yoshisen says:
August 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Fossil is a fine idea, but to be honest, we should be using thorium or a thorium/hybrid reactor.

I am also a big fan of thorium potential, but it will not replace most of the current uses of oil, which is the subject of David’s post. Oil goes into plastics, fertilizers, and a bunch of other stuff in addition to supplying the best liquid fuels for transportation. What thorium reactors would replace is coal and natural gas for electrical power, plus give us a way to dispose of waste from current uranium reactors. We have plenty of coal and natural gas, so even developing thorium reactors won’t give us a capability we can’t already meet, just the expectation of a lower cost.
Question for David: 61% of near-term recoverable reserves are in the Gulf and offshore Alaska. What do we do about vulnerability to hurricane disruption in the Gulf? How difficult are operations and what are the disruption risks for Alaska offshore?
Nice post. This is exactly the stuff I wish our politicians would talk about. (I know; I’m dreaming).


No issue with feeding our nuke capabilities, but realistically, oil is the mobile energy platform. We could halve the price of oil and have gasoline around $2. How would that fix be. No more engineering cars into crash deathtraps on the alter of CAFE standards, limited middle east issues, we could back the allies who we have a reason politically to back with out regard for the oli sheiks.


Rud, very dangerous comment – and almost universally false. It can probably be done, and it might even be easier than we think. But we do know, that if we don’t look, we will never know.

curt lampkin

Energy independence has been sought since 1973 oil shock. WUWT is the website for good weather info. http://www.peakoil.net is the website for good info on oil supplies . You might be interested in their viewpoint. Their main point is that while we have good reserves in the ground, the rate at which they can be extracted is insufficient to meet future demand


David, there’s one not-so-small flaw in your presentation. By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline approval, the Obama administration has demonstrated it is not a reliable trade partner in energy, at least where Canada is concerned. TransCanada Pipelines has incurred significant losses over this decision by the current administration.
As a result, the Canadian federal government has declared that completion of the Northern Gateway pipeline to be a national policy priority. This pipeline when completed will move Alberta oilsands production to the Pacific coast for export to Asia. This will have two noticeable effects. First, Canadian oil is sold to the United States at a discount because it is locked in geographically. Completion of Northern Gateway will mean that the US will now have to pay world prices for Canadian oil.
Second, it is reasonable to expect that some significant portion of Canadian oil will be going to Asia and not to the United States. It therefore may be unreasonable to suppose that all of the increase in Canadian production will go south. It must be further recognized that there has been large and growing investment by China in Canadian oilsands projects. Right now, we have a situation where a Chinese state corporation is making a takeover bid for Nexen.
In short, while you may be correct that NA energy independence is theoretically possible, policy decisions by the Obama administration have already essentially foreclosed some of it. What is not understood in the United States is how deeply hostile the Obama administration decision was to Canada. Particularly following as it did on exclusion of Canadian companies from stimulus spending where Canadian governments placed no such exclusion on US companies from participating in Canadian stimulus spending.
In short, many conservative Canadians such as I now question whether or not the US can be taken either at its word or in supposedly binding agreements where trade is concerned. Thanks to Obama, you brought this on yourselves.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

BTW, I’m not necessarily a fan of various “independence” policies: our industry is dependent on a bunch of materials we must import from abroad: bauxite (aluminum), chromium, copper to name a few. As long as there are rational markets and stable trading partners, there is nothing wrong with being dependent on imports. The US is exceptionally blessed with natural resources and we have managed to feed much of our industry with domestic production — probably more than any other nation. Japan on the other hand is very resource poor and must import nearly everything; yet they manage to run a modern industrial economy.
Oil is an exception because the internal market has been hijacked by a cartel, so increasing domestic production benefits all oil-consuming economies. Given the nature of most members in the oil cartel, achieving relative oil independence should be a national security priority anyway.

John West

Not only is there plenty of coal for electricity generation, there’s also plenty for oil production:
Strategically, I can see the position that we should use up “theirs” first (finite resource); but realistically we’re talking about the centuries down the road. We could use up half of theirs and then ours becomes obsolete. I think we should shoot for more than just energy independence but rather for being an energy exporter ASAP, while it’s still worth something.

” “Peak Oil,” if it exists, won’t be reached for hundreds of years if … ” is a pointed question IF, in fact, oil is abiotic.
Not often mentioned are the economic factors of purchasing our own oil and natural gas (from ourselves – is that somehow incestuous?) combined with the royalties and resulting income and payroll taxes paid to our own treasury, Enough to erase deficits? Probably not, but a good start has to be using our own natural resources.


curt lampkin:
Your post at August 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm is completely wrong.
Of note is your assertion saying of the ‘peak oil’ nonsense;

Their main point is that while we have good reserves in the ground, the rate at which they can be extracted is insufficient to meet future demand

Nonsense! If the extraction rate is insufficient then drill more wells.

I’m with Jem. Get rid of CAFE standards and let’s produce. NG cars are a proper alternative and gas and cheap diesel below $2/gal . Too many want to control the populace with mass tansit projects. Let people drive all they want to and wherever they want to. Fly too. There is so much untapped petroleum available it’s not funny. And I left out coal too. Nukes and clean coal should be a great part of the solution ahead. Cheap and redundant electricity for all and cheap gas for 30 years would go a long way to turning this country around. IMO.

I agree with JEM…

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

cgh says:
August 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

In short, many conservative Canadians such as I now question whether or not the US can be taken either at its word or in supposedly binding agreements where trade is concerned. Thanks to Obama, you brought this on yourselves.

Oh come on. Anyone who lives under a popularly elected government knows that good and bad governments both come and go. The Obama administration is just a four year slice of our government history; like the weather four years does not establish a trend.
Canada should base long-term major decisions on long-term experience and expectations. Anyway you slice it, transportation costs to the US will always be lower than to Asia. We’ve lived side by side for almost 200 years without getting into a war (against each other that is). One administration on either side of the border making bad decisions does not equal the weight of all else that has gone before.
Besides, when the next mini ice-age comes, I expect a lot of Canadians are going to want to move south to escape the polar bears.

“What do we do about vulnerability to hurricane disruption in the Gulf?”
I’m sure you noticed that a Hurricane just came across the gulf with almost zero impact on actual production. (the price moves up and down were due to futures traders gambling on expectations, a 2nd derivative type of play) The offshore platforms are engineered very well, and remember that much of the equipment is now subsurface, meaning it isn’t vulnerable to surface disruptions like hurricanes. The threat of weather on offshore production is vastly overstated, probably because (as mentioned above) a lot of futures traders make a lot of money by overstating it.


It was not explicit in your analysis, but did you consider the oil production by using CO2 (Ha!) to recover oil from “played out” oil fields? DOE is actively encouraging the capture of CO2 from coal plants and using it for EOR, not to sequester it. It has been suggested that even some of the oldest oil wells in Pennsylvania and Ohio could start producing again using CO2 enhancement. The oil available from this is estimated to be 60 to 100% of the oil originally extracted from those wells. Of course the oil has to be expensive enough to cover the cost of capturing the CO2 but that is part of the argument against “peak oil.” There is plenty of it out there once we become smart enough to get it and/or it becomes worth it to pay the price.


David, I agree, but the US government has fouled that nest fairly thoroughly over the past four years.
Richard, about your peak oil comment, it’s indeed the case that there’s a lot of mythology about the supposed peak oil hypothesis. But there’s one aspect of it that does need to be considered. Fuel doesn’t become obsolete because the supply runs out; it becomes obsolete when it no longer has sufficient density to meet current needs. The problem with petroleum will be the same as the problem with wood in the 13th century. Specifically the transport infrastructure. There is a finite limit to how many tankers can move through the Straits of Hormuz or how many pipelines can be built. At some point the marginal costs of building new infrastructure forces the adoption of new fuel sources that are less costly and can still meet the scale of the overall demand.
For example, in 1970, a large proportion of US electricity supply, and some of Canada’s, was being met by bunker oil. However, virtually all of the new electricity supply over the subsequent three decades was met primarily by nuclear power, with the last of the new nuclear plants coming into service in the mid 1990s. A large part of the advantage of nuclear power is the much smaller infrastructure required to deliver kWh to the demand point.
Now most of the new supply is being supplied from gas. But there’s a limit to this, not in the number of holes than can be drilled but in the amount of infrastructure required to process and move it. In short, over the long term, as we become increasingly urbanized, it’s all about energy density. Which is why the renewables fail so dismally.

Navy Bob

Dave – not just unconventional petroleum-based liquid fuels, but diesel, jet fuel and gasoline from coal are economic today (as John West points out) as well as the even cheaper processes for producing the same transport fuels from natural gas, of which we have a glut. Shell and Sasol (the South African coal liquefaction company) are both seriously studying gas-to-liquids plants in Louisiana. Even cheaper is directly burning liquefied natural gas (LNG) in trucks, which is already taking place. Shell and Gulf are building LNG filling stations, and major truck manufacturers such as Navistar and Peterbilt now manufacture trucks that will run on the ultra-clean fuel. The only practical limits to America’s liquid hydrocarbon production are those imposed by Democrats.

One important point is that substantially increased US oil production would have a large effect on the US trade deficit. The result would be that the USD would increase in value relative to other currencies. This would not only reduce the price of gas at the pump, but reduce the price of all goods that are at least in part imported.
The oft repeated claim that increased US oil production would not reduce the price at the pump, is false for this reason.

Don’t be swayed by the nay-Sayers contention that more domestic oil production will not lower the price of gas at the pump. That canard assumes that the dollar is a fixed standard of measurement. Not true. Keeping hundreds of millions of dollars per day in this economy instead of adding to the trade deficit would strengthen the dollar.
Energy independence in the USA may not lower the price of oil in Swiss francs, but the American Dollar would buy more Swiss francs.
Every sane country in the world would love to have excess oil to export.

Thank you for your workup. As oil is responsible for something around a third of total national energy use (mainly vehicular fuels), I would like to suggest Coal to Liquids (Fischer – Tropschs) as a quick addition to that capability. CTL is also a player on the Alaska North Slope as the majority of the coal in the state is north of the Brooks Range on the western part of the state.
Gas to Liquids (basically synthetic diesel / kerosine / Jet-A / JP-8 /AvGas / RP-1) is a way to use known fields of natural gas on the North Slope and keep the pipeline filled. Synthetic product can be batched with oil down the pipeline and separated in Valdez. Doing this is double interesting as it puts in place infrastructure capable of handling CTLs from western AK and does so over time.
Streamlining the nuclear permitting process and starting to adopt thorium reactors would also work the electricity part of the energy problem.
Energy independence by 2020? Possible. Problem will be to figure out how to get the congress and the regulatory apparatus out of the way so that the marketplace can make the appropriate choices. We all want to design the solution at some level, and central planning never works. Cheers –

Gunga Din

Luther Wu says:
August 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm
Just as I thought… a bunch of isolationists. How wrong can a plan be! Imagine, ending payments to the sources funding most of the terrorist movements worldwide? Wouldn’t it better that we reach out to them instead and show them we mean them no harm?
I know! Let’s build a memorial called “The Crescent ot Embrace”!
“Drill, Baby, drill!”

Louis Hooffstetter

I think most of us here favor domestic power generated by whatever is available: oil, gas, coal, hamster wheels, geothermal, wind, solar, fat people on stationary bicycles, thorium reactors, thermal reactors, fast neutron reactors, etc., etc.
“Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Reserves” are like climate models. They’re scientific wild ass guesses based on what we ‘think’ we know. However, we do us know that there are huge reserves of natural gas in the form of hydrate deposits off of the coast of NC and SC:


Thankyou for your reply to me at August 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm. However, I rejected an assertion which you made and your reply changes the subject.
Of course I agree that energy density is important. Indeed, that is why fossil fuels replaced wind, solar and muscle powers when the high energy density of fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine. But you are now claiming that the increased infrastructure required for increased fossil fuel use will negate the net available energy from each unit (e.g. barrel) of fossil fuel.
That claim is clearly not true. The infrastructure required to produce, fractionate and distribute oil in the US is less than the similar infrastructure needed for the US to obtain processed oil from e.g. the Middle East. Simply, there is no problem provided by the additional infrastructure required for additional oil production. However, legislation which inhibits or prevents construction of the infrastructure would be a problem (this would be similar to existing US legislation which inhibits oil production in the US).
This is the problem with the ‘peak oil’-scare. In common with AGW-scare, as each asserted ‘problem’ is debunked then another improbable problem is suggested.


You all should spend a bit of time over at Huffington when they have a story on anything to do with increasing oil production. That is the mind set that will stand in the way of achieving any sort of independence in energy. The belief that the oil companies are the agents of Mordor is endemic. You get the feeling that most of them had their opinions on energy and manufaturing companies formed by Captain Planet.

The major challenge in petroleum supply will not be satisfying the US but will be satisfying all those countries in the developing world who will be bidding against us to get oil in future. These countries are making better decisions now and have been doing so for awhile. Their middle class is exploding by global middle class standards and they’re going to be entering into the world oil markets in significant numbers. If we do not develop additional sources of energy, energy prices will explode as all that demand comes on market over the next few decades.
It is that well deserved increase in demand that is the reason we in N. America need to make it easier to explore, transport, refine, and deliver hydrocarbon product cheaply in the US. The numbers needed to satisfy that anticipated demand and the lead times and investment needed involve staggering numbers. We’re nowhere near ready.

Jeff L

Good presentation of data however it would be better with expected decline curves for these various potential resources. With a series of potential type declines for these various resources, modeling production rates would be pretty straight forward and essential to actually answering the question of if we can be “NA energy independent ” by 2020. I’ll give you your resource #s unchallenged but I want to see what that implies in terms of # of wells that need to be drilled ( and continue to be drilled to offset declines ) and then judge whether that is a reasonable expectation. Given that new production (and undeveloped resources) are dominated by resource plays, which have steeper declined than conventional production, my guess is that it may be harder to achieve than you think, regardless of the underlying resource. Anyway would interested in your assessment of the # of wells per year required to achieve this goal compared to current activity. One thing I am sure of is this level activity would generate a tremendous # of jobs & employment, probably drive energy prices down & be very good for the economy. Look at North Dakota as an example – lowest unemployment in the country, driven by Bakken activity.

more soylent green!

We have the resources, we have the technology. We lack the political will.
Nuclear/solar/wind/thorium are not replacements for oil. Even if we increase our nuclear power generation, we’ll still need natural gas plants because they can be brought online quickly to meet heavy demands.
Wind and solar are intermittent, expense and not worthwhile to deploy large-scale at this time.

Gail Combs

Don’t hold your breath that Romney will actually allow more fossil fuel. His statements show he is on the Global warming/CO2 is EVIL bandwagon.
I wonder how Mitt’s ““North American energy independence” by 2020. fits in with the Bush and Clinton and Obama Administrations commitment to Agenda 21? As far as I can tell all he is doing is repackaging the same old UN totalitarian crap.

I adopt what I call no regrets policies. Policies that will allow us to become energy independent and will have as one of their by-products, reduction of the CO2 that we emit, the greenhouse gases that we emit. So let me tell you the kinds of things that I’d like to do.
“With regards to our developing more energy, I want to see us use more of our renewable resources: bio-diesel, bio-fuel, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol. I want to see us developing liquefied coal if we can sequester the CO2 properly. I want to see nuclear power. I want to see us develop our own oil off-shore, and in Anwar. Let’s develop all the sources we can to provide for our own energy needs and free ourselves of independence on Ahmadinejad, and Chavez and Putin and others that have that oil today….”
“On the other side of the equation, in addition to developing our energy, we have to be more efficient in our use of it. And that means more fuel efficient vehicles. It means more energy efficient homes. The combination of more efficiency and the generation of more domestic-sourced energy will allow us to become energy independent. And we do need an Apollo type project. A Manhattan style project where we put in place the funding necessary to seriously get on track to becoming truly energy independent. And that has as the benefit, of reducing our emissions of CO2.”

Read that and then watch Rosa Koire’s video on Agenda 21 and the plans to rebuild of our cities using “Smart Growth.” Plans to concentrate the US population on 26% of our land and relegate us to highrises and bikes. Land that also must provide ALL our food (see Cornell University’s “Foodshed”)
I see nothing that Romney is saying that contradicts UN policies. He has already proved he is on board as governor:

Governor provides green initiatives:
“Combining affordable housing and environmentally-friendly smart growth isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about promoting common sense,” said Romney. “By simultaneously investing in affordable housing and smart growth, Green Communities will help support our economy while maintaining the kind of diversity and healthy environment that makes Massachusetts such a great place to work, live and raise a family.”
“We commend Governor Romney, MassHousing and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for joining Enterprise in making smart, sustainable building mainstream in affordable housing,” said Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation… “This partnership will produce healthier, more energy efficient, affordable housing for residents across the Commonwealth,” said Rob Pratt, director of the Renewable Energy Trust…”
myclob.pbworks.com – Romney Announces Massachusetts Green Communities Initiative – Jul 7, 2005

Anyone remember House Resolution 25X25?? “The House Agriculture Committee today moved the nation closer to a renewable energy future, adopting a resolution that calls for 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs being met by renewable resources by the year 2025.”

Our Vision:
By the year 2025, America’s farms, ranches and forests will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber.

25x’25 Mission Statement
Document, affirm, and advocate to policymakers, energy stakeholders, and information multipliers the fact that America’s working lands can provide 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources while simultaneously:
* producing abundant and affordable food, feed, and fiber;
* strengthening national security;
* reducing dependence on imported fossil fuel;
* sustaining and enhancing soil, water and air quality, and wildlife habitat;
* sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
* keeping the cost of energy affordable; and
* boosting the economy and creating millions of new jobs.

Yeah, I will probably vote for him because Obama is worse… but not by much. However do not expect the goals and direction to change. The plans to remove humans from privately owned property is moving along quite smoothly. As Rosa mentioned they will not even bother to pay you for the land they force you off. Instead it will be a “regulatory taking” Fine you, bankrupt you and grab the house and property to pay the fines. Rosa should know it was her job in California. Here is a WUWT article on one of the battles The ugly battle between rural residents and alternative energy mandates in California

An Inquirer

For decades, I scoffed at the idea of energy independence, but with recent developments in technology and resources — yes, we can. Not tomorrow, but in ten years — yes, we can for the North American continent. Nevertheless, that will not free us from the world price of oil. This product is traded on the world market, and our price will ride up and down with the world price. But we would not be sending $ to governments that do not like us. Both Keynesians and Supply Siders would agree that our economy would be helped by not sending $ to these governments.

I looks like the only thing standing between America and its energy future is President Obama and his ugly crew of Krazy-Cats. We have the same problem here in Australia. Ours is called Gillard and her ugly crew from the Labourious Party.


Cheap energy only benefits consumers, business, jobs and the economy.
Why, if you wanted to expand government and dependency upon its handouts, would one want to encourage something that would enable folks to make their own way.
I’m only a 1/2 century old, yet I fear for our futures.
Also, our refineries are at capacity.
Why build any more, at risk of lowering profits/making the greens or politicians mad.


For those knocking thorium might want to scan this
from the folks as Los Alamos in 2007. Another five years wasted on killing birds, bats and burning money for the Solyndra’s of the left. Point is there’s lots of ways to produce hydrocarbons. Even Google seems to want to go to Titan to scoop up all that natural gas (methane to the science folks). Even Germany had synfuel plants during WWII since they didn’t seem to have any convenient oil fields in the Reich.
I like thorium for a number of reasons. Imagine developing a thorium electric generating and synfuel export package to the third world as self contained units. The nuclear (non-thorium) self-contained plants are under development today. And, of course, we’ve been running portable nuke plants around the globe since Rickover got tired of diesel engines in subs.
It’s really, like the space program man-on-the-moon, more an issue of desire and focus than reasons not to be the largest exported of power in the world, much less “independent”. Just think what even mildly competant folks could build with just one years worth of deficit.

Doug Proctor

Two things:
1. Economic. At current $100/bbl, current oilsands economic and attractive, at $150/bbl, lower volume/rate will be attractive and Green River Shale etc. will be good. If gas prices can get back to oil prices on a 10:1 ratio, or even 12:1, then gas shales and tight gas will be good. All of this requires consumers to pay higher energy costs than currently, however.
If we want all this oil, we can have it if we are willing to pay for it.
2. Strategic. Should we develop our own, North American reserves at this time or should we produce the Mid-East/OPEC supplies first? Using up the Mid-East supplices of our troubling friends means that down the road they may be less troubling than today. At which point we can develop our own.
Paying ourselves is better economically than paying others. However, there may be a larger net benefit if those who wish to disturb the world have less to disturb the world with as time goes by.


Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
August 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm
yoshisen says:
August 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm
Fossil is a fine idea, but to be honest, we should be using thorium or a thorium/hybrid reactor.
I am also a big fan of thorium potential, but it will not replace most of the current uses of oil, which is the subject of David’s post. Oil goes into plastics, fertilizers, and a bunch of other stuff in addition to supplying the best liquid fuels for transportation. What thorium reactors would replace is coal and natural gas for electrical power, plus give us a way to dispose of waste from current uranium reactors. We have plenty of coal and natural gas, so even developing thorium reactors won’t give us a capability we can’t already meet, just the expectation of a lower cost.

Not neccessarily. A nuclear reactor running at high temperatures, like the LFTR, would be a great heat source for coal or gas to liquid processes. And even if those run out in the far future, we can also use them to re-cycle atmospheric CO2 into liquid hydrocarbon fuels as in this:

Gail Combs

cedarhill says:
August 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm
For those knocking thorium…..
I am all for thorium but I have my doubts as to whether or not the movers and shakers who run the world are going to allow thorium in the USA, Australia or the EU. It does not fit into the Agenda 21 plan of equal poverty for all.
China and India will get coal and Nuclear but not us. Heck the World Bank and dumping mega bucks in to coal plants for China, India and South Africa.


Nuclear or Fossil Fuels, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that a positive change in leadership will realize implementation of an common-sense energy policy that relies on base load capability, not on wind and solar.
Let wind and solar be the icing on the cake, for those that like icing.