A Brief Economic Update on Oil

Originally Published in eFlourishing Issue 10, May 30, 2010

The theory of “Peak Oil”, like the theory of “anthropogenic global warming”, is, I believe, factually unsustainable. Both theories conveniently discount the scope and effects of natural phenomena and the unlimited potential of the liberated human mind. Fortunately, as Mrs. Cunningham taught her history students nearly fifty years ago, the truth will out. According to a recent Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/126716/Environmental-Issues-Year-Low-Concern.aspx) , the number of people who take “Global Warming” seriously has fallen to 28%. “Peak Oil” is headed for the dust-bin of science, too.

Oil production increased in the Gulf of Mexico and North Dakota last year. Those increases more than offset declines elsewhere in the U.S. for the first annual increase in U.S. oil production since 1991. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in its March 2010 Short-Term Energy Outlook that U.S. oil production in 2009 averaged 5.32 million barrels a day, up from 4.95 million in 2008. That’s an 8% increase.

Several weeks ago, a subscriber/client sent me a link to some information about the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. I checked it out. According to a 2008 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, Bakken could increase technically recoverable reserves by up to 4 billion barrels. Though newsletter and stock promoters often exaggerate the potential of the Bakken Formation, the recent EIA Outlook shows that Bakken does add significantly to production. The increases in production in both the Gulf of Mexico and North Dakota’s Bakken Formation show – yet again – how oil company investments in rapidly developing technology can increase both known reserves and current oil production.

As the economist Dr. Reisman reminds us, from its surface to its center – a distance of four thousand miles – the Earth is nothing but a solidly packed ball of natural resources. Even with the scientific and technological progress we’ve made during the 150-year history of the oil industry, we’ve succeeded in drilling in just a few places to a depth of only about seven miles – a pin prick.

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