John has already noted what ought to have been above-the-fold news in every newspaper last week—the testimony of the GAO’s head of natural resources that the U.S. has recoverable oil shale “about equal to the entire world’s proven oil reserves.” It wasn’t front-page news, however, because it doesn’t fit the liberal narrative and favorite talking point that the U.S. only has “2 percent” of proven global oil reserves.
I suggest we start calling such people “hydrocarbon deniers,” since only a puritanical fixation prevents the sensible exploitation of our own energy resources. (Maybe we should call them “Energy Prohibitionists” as well as “hydrocarbon deniers,” since China and everyone else is going to make use of their hydrocarbon energy.) And anyone who persists in using the “2 percent” talking point again (that would include President Obama) deserves to be labeled an anti-science ignoramus.
For the slow learners out there, here’s what the situation looks like graphically, using data from the Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency. Turns out the U.S. may have as much as three-fourths of the world’s oil shale. Figure 1 shows the estimated proven reserves of conventional oil. But add in “unconventional” shale oil (though this distinction is increasingly meaningless with the advance of extraction technology), and you get Figure 2 (corrected–the third column shows the oil reserves for the rest of the world not including the U.S.), which shows that instead of having only 2 percent of global oil reserves, the U.S. actually has 82 percent as much oil as the rest of the world combined, and almost twice as much as the Middle East. (Figure 3 shows the U.S. shale total added to the world reserves, which shows that we have roughly 45 percent of the world’s total oil hydrocarbons.) Thus we can say that Saudi Arabia is the America of oil, except that we have way more than they do. Maybe we should start exporting oil to China and join OPEC?
UPDATE: I’ve had a few direct messages reminding me of some of the technical difficulties of shale production (especially water), with which I am familiar. I’ll have a longer article about some of this coming out tomorrow on RealClearMarkets.com. Stay tuned for a link.