Myth Buster: U.S. Possesses World Class Energy Reserves

The U.S. has been depicted over the past several years as being a nation that possesses little of the world’s resources.
At the same time, the nation has been characterized as using way more — in proportion to its population — than should be allowed. The statistic often used is that the U.S. has “just 4 percent of the world’s population yet uses 25 percent of the world’s resources.”
A government report released last month, however, indicates the U.S.’s combined recoverable natural gas, oil and coal endowment is the largest on Earth.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. natural gas discoveries reached a record level during 2008. Also, by the end of 2008, domestic natural gas proved reserves reached their highest level since the EIA began reporting them in 1977. “Proved reserves” are those volumes of oil and natural gas that geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.
Shale gas fields, like the Woodford Shale natural gas formation in southeast Oklahoma, drove gas production and reserves markedly higher, the EIA reported. Reserves from shale reservoirs were up 51 percent over 2007 and now account for 13 percent of total proved reserves of dry natural gas, the EIA said in its report, “Summary: U.S. Crude Oil, Natural Gas and Natural Gas Liquids Reserves, 2008.” “Dry” natural gas, or consumer grade gas, is what’s left after all the liquefiable hydrocarbons have been removed.
Nor was 2008 an anomaly. The ‘08 results represented the sixth consecutive yearly increase. What is even more amazing is that in a record year, the increase was just 3 percent. Drilling slowed this year but began gaining momentum in 2003. In every year since, natural gas discoveries reached the stratosphere statistically, flirting with record production annually and finally going over the top in 2008.
“This year’s report underscores for a second year the technological shift in domestic exploration and production from conventional reserves to unconventional shales,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. “Given the drop in the price of natural gas during 2008, growth in proved reserves is remarkable.”
The EIA’s estimates of proved reserves of natural gas and crude oil at the end of 2008 tell different stories about changes in the availability of these energy resources in the U.S.
U.S. crude oil proved reserves declined 10 percent — down by 2,196 million barrels — in 2008, despite a third year of increased discoveries. Those oil finds were in the Gulf of Mexico, western Texas and in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. The overall drop in oil reserves reflects use of low end-of-year prices to assess reserves under existing financial accounting standards.
The point is the nation has the resources to fuel its own growth for the foreseeable future.
A rapid ramp-up in exploiting these domestic energy supplies — offshore, onshore, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, federal-controlled land in the West — is a real solution to economic recovery, job creation and the environment.
Using shiny green rhetoric to talk up so-called “clean” energy and green jobs while attempting to make fossil fuels more expensive, or worse, extinct, is to ignore the facts and put the U.S. at risk.  

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