One doesn’t need to look very far to find someone pondering the future of offshore drilling. The recent catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is a stark reminder of the high-risk, high-payoff game the future could be. You know the risks…loss of fishing and tourism revenue, human life, human health, declining ecosystem function, diminishing biodiversity, and overall environmental degradation. But what of the payoff? How much offshore oil is out there and how long will it sustain us?
According to Annual Energy Outlook (Table 10 pg 57) produced by the Energy Information Association and the Department of Energy in 2007, 59.09 billion barrels was technically recoverable in the U.S. offshore oil holdings. 40.92 billion barrels are in the Gulf of Mexico alone. According to a 2008 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the federal government estimates the total reserve for our nation’s outer continental shelf at around 85.9 billion barrels.
How long will that oil last us? At 7.56 billion barrels of oil per year. Between 7.9-11.3 years. That’s it. We have quite possibly ruined the entire Gulf of Mexico for 11.3 years of oil.
Of course all of these are estimates and there is likely variance in any one of them. However, our oil consumption is not likely to magically decrease by half and fairy dust will not make our reserves double. But even if they were, would 16-24 years make you feel any better than 8-12? It doesn’t for me.
These simple calculations demonstrate that oil cannot be our future. I am not willing to gamble our oceans on a temporary fix from offshore drilling.