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Oil forever?

There are those who claim that all this fuss about alternative fuels is a waste of time. After all, we have oil we’ve never even bothered to pump out of the earth. When I left Sidney, Montana in 1985, oil wells were being capped because they weren’t worth the effort. In 2000, new exploration techniques started the oil boom up again. There is oil under ANWR, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, which could be tapped without stepping foot onto ANWR land, by improved drilling techniques.

This supposed ‘flood’ of oil sounds like a lot of difference at the pump. But the actual proven reserves in the US amount to about 2% of the global total. Two percent is two cents on the dollar, a nickel difference on $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

However, the math is not even that simple. The price at the pump for the US consumer will reflect the costs of developing new wells, pipelines, refineries, and paying the freight both ways. Oil is priced based on a global market, with demand for oil growing rapidly all over the globe. Even our domestic oil production might not stay in the US; there is nothing to prevent Alaskan oil from being sold to China.

Technology may render oil obsolete. Even leaving electric cars out of the equation, in a few years we could be farming algae from the Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ to make biodiesel, or ethanol, or- the far more likely scenario – synthetic fuel which will probably be sold as ‘Gasoline’, even if it is 80% alcohols.
The oil companies will still be here, because they are looking beyond oil to ensure their future. They don’t consider alternatives a waste of time.


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