This weekend it was announced that oil companies Chevron, Devon Energy Corporation, and Statoil ASA of Norway discovered a pool of oil below the Gulf of Mexico that could provide up to 15 billion barrels of oil. However, this oil will not be available until at least 2010, pending further testing to accurately determine the actual quantity available and the profitability for the three companies.
I was heartened by this news, even in the context of the US having reached its peak oil production in 1970 and of the predicted world oil production peak to occur in this decade (see Richard Heinberg, The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies). Assuming that 15 billion barrels are available, this could satisfy current US demand for two and a half years. Although this is not an historically long period, this time can provide all of us with an opportunity to aggressively work towards the elusive goal of energy independence.
I consider myself an energy optimist. I think that our increasing concern about global warming and higher oil prices are driving us to reflect and to act more seriously to handle these problems. Individuals have been slowly changing their transportation choices. Arnold Schwarzenegger is working with Tony Blair to create a carbon trading program. Even President Bush's discussion of energy problems, despite that most of it is lip service, demonstrates a shift in the public consciousness.
I think in the next few years we need to dramatically increase investment in science and engineering research into alternative energy sources. State and local leaders need to engage their citizens to participate in constructive debate about how to design our communities to be more energy efficient, and individuals need to examine how we can make changes in our energy consumption.
Taking a long view of history, I think the more that we do now will help construct a future in which we will not fight among ourselves for energy. I agree with Thomas Friedman, when he states that “thinking about how to alter our energy consumption patterns to bring down the price of oil is no longer simply a hobby for high-minded environmentalists. It is now a national security imperative.”
So, despite the fact that the discovery of this new oil field at its best will quench much of our appetite for petroleum for a few years, we can do our best with this time to continue to solve our energy problems.Powered by Sidelines