North America’s Energy Bounty, By the Numbers

On Tuesday, the Institute for Energy Research issued its North American Energy Inventory (.pdf link), a report which documents the government’s own estimates of oil, natural gas and coal resources for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. (The IER is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to advancing America’s supply using free market principles.)

In a nutshell, North America contains a vast bounty of energy sources in the form of oil, natural gas and coal. Reports that we are “running out” of energy sources use semantics and terminology to play with the facts. Simply put, we have chosen not to exploit potential sources close to home, finding it more expedient or convenient to depend on faraway sources for our energy.

Based on the ongoing tangible successes in North Dakota and Pennsylvania, one would think that the jobs/growth potential presented by aggressive energy development would tantalize any politician who is truly interested in helping the economy. One would think.

The following video will give you a quick run-down of the key points of the report, but I would encourage anyone interested to download and read the full report. It is extremely well-documented and although it is chock-full of facts and figures, I found it to be an easy read.

Excerpt from the report’s executive summary:

The amount of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States is more than 1.4 trillion barrels, with the largest deposits located offshore, in portions of Alaska, and in shale in the Rocky Mountain West. When combined with resources from Canada and Mexico, total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels.

That is more than the world has used since the first oil well was drilled over 150 years ago in Titusville, Pennsylvania. To put this in context, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves. For comparative purposes, the technically recoverable oil in North America could fuel the present needs in the United States of seven billion barrels per year for around 250 years.

Moreover, it is important to note that that “reserves” estimates are constantly in flux. For example, in 1980, the U.S. had oil reserves of roughly 30 billion barrels. Yet from 1980 through 2010, we produced over 77 billion barrels of oil. In other words, over the last 30 years, we produced over 150 percent of our proved reserves. …

Proved reserves of natural gas in the United States and throughout North America are enormous, and the total amount of recoverable natural gas is even more impressive. The EIA estimates that the United States has 272.5 trillion cubic feet of proved reserves of natural gas. The total amount of natural gas that is recoverable in North America is approximately 4.2 quadrillion (4,244 trillion) cubic feet.

Given that U.S. consumption is currently about 24 trillion cubic feet per year, there is enough natural gas in North America to last the United States for over 175 years at current rates of consumption.

A key point of the IER report: We have been told repeatedly by our President, liberal members of Congress and our environmental community that the U.S. consumes 24% (or somesuch) of the world’s energy, but we have only 2% (or somesuch) of the world’s proved reserves. It’s just not fair!

However, IER explains how lying liars lie:


A frequent source of confusion about America’s energy potential is the terminology used, primarily the enormous yet poorly understood difference between “resources” and “reserves.” The term “reserves” typically refers to a country’s known, proved and presently economic energy supplies, but a country’s resources are much larger, representing a nation’s total potential energy. The debate over whether a country has only a few years’ supply of a particular energy source or centuries’ worth can hinge upon the terms employed. It is merely semantics—not a scientific assessment of what America has the capacity to produce—that allows critics to claim repeatedly that America is running out of energy.

Hmmmm…. Sounds familiar….

Cross-posted at stevemaley.com.

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