Drill My Yard First!
Posted Sep 4, 2008 by Richard Heinberg
America—or at least a significant part of the country—seems to be in a drilling frenzy these days. The country has oil problems; the solution (in Newt Gingrich’s memorable phrase) is: Drill here! Drill now!
Well, I think that’s a dandy idea. If we have lots more oil in America, why should we be paying other countries for it? Especially if those other countries don’t like us very much!
So, as a patriotic American, I would like to offer my own suburban backyard to the American oil industry: drill here and now! A lease and a profit-sharing agreement are certainly negotiable.
Further, if this truly is a national priority, shouldn’t the country’s highest leaders set the example? I hereby propose a national campaign to drill for oil in the White House Rose Garden. That’ll show those Venezuelans! What a magnificent symbol of national purpose, resolve, and self-sufficiency!
Okay, enough sarcasm. Exxon is not rushing to drill in my backyard or yours (or George W. Bush’s) because the Beverly Hillbilly days are over. The US is what the industry calls a mature oil province. It’s all been explored, discoveries peaked out nearly 80 years ago, and production has been sliding downhill since 1970. Yes, there are some dregs, but the oil companies aren’t really all that excited about ANWR—it’s a tough and expensive environment to operate in.
Now, the California coast is another story: Chevron would be happy to sink a few holes there, though on the sliding scale of difficulty we’re talking just a notch this side of the Gulf of Mexico—where the level of technology needed to operate in deep water offshore is truly awe-inspiring (and damned expensive). The easy onshore plays are already thoroughly exploited.
Let’s get real. The quantities in these remaining off-limits, protected areas are relatively minor, and about a decade will pass before any significant amount of oil can come from them.
Meanwhile the US is using more oil daily than is pumped from the world’s top two oil producing nations (Russia and Saudi Arabia) combined. Does anyone seriously think the US can satisfy its habit domestically as long as it maintains that level of addiction?
The real solution is as obvious as it could possibly be: Use less. But that’s not what a lot of Americans want to hear, so facts, logic, and basic arithmetic are thrown overboard.
Makes you proud.
But maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Perhaps we just haven’t poked enough holes. If that’s the case, then I’d like to remind you about my backyard. . .