The U.S. consumes about an almost unimaginable amount of oil every day: 20,680,000 barrels of oil per day (and see here). Keep in mind that each barrel contains 42 gallons. Thus, Americans currently use 20,680,000 barrels per day = 239 barrels per second = 10,000 gallons of oil per second.Therefore , we desperately need to maintain almost 4,000 drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in order to keep drilling for oil, right? Not so fast.
Why aren’t we seriously discussing our ability to entirely eliminate offshore drilling by getting just a little bit serious about conservation? Consider the following statistics, which should be on the front page of every newspaper in the United States because
they prove that we don’t need offshore drilling but that we do need to seriously implement conservation measures for many reasons (one of which is impending peak oil):
Projecting ahead to the year 2016, the total oil production from the Gulf of Mexico will never exceed 2.1 million barrels of oil per day. Within the next 10 years, total GOM oil production is expected to exceed 1.7 million barrels of oil per day (MMBOPD), a projection based on existing shallow and deepwater operator commitments as shown in Table 2 and Figure 2. If industry-announced discoveries and undiscovered resources realize their full potential, production could reach 2.1 MMBOPD.
This information comes from page 12 of “Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Production Forecast: 2007-2016,” published by the U.S. Department of the Interior. See also, this chart, Figure 2 on page 14 of this same report:
In August, 2008, Joseph Romm assembled some eye-popping calculations in a Grist article titled “More oil can be found in your car than offshore.” Based on conservative estimates, “the nation could save some 2.5 to 3 million barrels a day through better automotive maintenance and smarter driving.” Note that Romm’s conservatively calculated measures would save more barrels of oil every day than the barrels we suck out of the Gulf of Mexico.
The suggestions in the Grist article do NOT even include upgrading the U.S. fleet to including more fuel efficient vehicles. Rather, the Grist article includes only the following common sense suggestions and calculations:
• Keep Your Engine Properly Tuned: (can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent).
• Check & Replace Air Filters Regularly: Replacing clogged air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
• Keep Tires Properly Inflated: You can improve your gas mileage by around 3.3 percent. (I was an early advocate of this point).
• Use the Recommended Grade of Motor Oil (This can improve your gas mileage by 1-2 percent).
• Drive Sensibly: (aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.)
• Observe the Speed Limit. (This can increase mileage 7-23%.)
• Remove Excess Weight (“An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2%”).
But what if we got even more serious about conserving oil? One such analysis is the “EPA Analysis of the Transportation Sector,” published on Feb 10, 2010. These suggestions include upgrading the design of motor vehicles and fuels, as well as implementing public transportation, land-use, ride-sharing, and other innovations. Adopting these proposals could save an additional 4.2 million barrels of oil per day, which is double the amount of oil that petroleum companies currently extract, per day, from the Gulf of Mexico.
Conservation measures are thus immensely important, and they directly benefit the immense expenditures we make regarding national security, since not-needed oil doesn’t flow through any pipeline at all, and it doesn’t require the American military to supervise its non-flow through non-pipelines.
Being smart is a lot easier than finding unnecessary oil. To conserve oil does require political will. Despite hostile attitudes against conservation by those ironically named “conservatives” (and see here), we have occasionally enacted meaningful changes. Consider, that on May 19, 2009, President Obama:
Set in motion a new national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards, covering model years 2012-2016, and ultimately requiring an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016, are projected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program with a fuel economy gain averaging more than 5 percent per year and a reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions. This would surpass the CAFE law passed by Congress in 2007 required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg in 2020.
To summarize, merely upgrading those five model years of motor vehicles will eliminate 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of those vehicles regulated. I don’t have exact numbers regarding life of the typical car, but we can estimate it to be about ten years, Based on that number 1.8 billion over ten years, simply making five years of passenger vehicles a bit more efficient will save 500,000 barrels of oil per day, which is about one-fourth of all of the oil produced by all of the off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
We’ve conserved immense amounts of oil through government measures that barely scratch the surface. It’s time to get really serious about saving oil through improved measures in the conservation sector. And then we need to get doubly serious about building zero carbon footprint buildings, because each such building will be around wasting fuel (or saving fuel) for decades longer than the life of a typical car.
We should immediately to take the tragic devastation in the Gulf of Mexico caused by British Petroleum as a wake-up call to get serious about conservation. This call should be sounded from every quarter, because the United States is a bloated and thus vulnerable energy hog. Conservation will need to become the centrepiece for our national energy policy. We can either have the courage to face this inconvenient fact, or it will be shoved down our throats. Here are some useful ideas for getting started (and see here).
About the Author (Author Profile)Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Who elected BP to be our government? | Dangerous Intersection | May 24, 2010
- Apathy as enabler | Dangerous Intersection | July 5, 2010
- How to get from here to there regarding renewable energy | Dangerous Intersection | August 26, 2010