US ENERGY: PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE Petroleum Remains No. 1 Fuel, but US Production Sags. OIL Series: POWERING THE US INTO THE 21st CENTURY. Part 1 of 5 Part Series. Second of Five Stories Appearing Today

By Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 23, 1991 | Go to article overview

US ENERGY: PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE Petroleum Remains No. 1 Fuel, but US Production Sags. OIL Series: POWERING THE US INTO THE 21st CENTURY. Part 1 of 5 Part Series. Second of Five Stories Appearing Today


Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


WITH a 40 percent share of total energy demand, oil is vital to the United States. In the transportation sector, where a quarter of the nation's energy is consumed, reliance on oil is a critical 97 percent.

But production is waning in the US, the world's most mature petroleum province. In 130 years the industry drilled 3 million wells that found 39,000 oil fields and produced oil equal to 950 quadrillion British thermal units (quads).

Since 1986, exploration efforts have dragged at 40-year lows. As a result, the country discovered only four barrels for every five it produced over that period. All that remained of conventional reserves at the end of 1989 were 164 quads - a decade's worth of production at current levels.

Of the 34 quads of oil consumed last year, 42 percent was imported at a cost of $55 billion. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supplies a quarter of US imports - double its share of five years ago.

If nothing is done, the Bush administration says, oil imports will hit 65 percent of demand by 2010, at a cost of $200 billion in 1990 dollars.

Foreign oil's share can be kept below 50 percent, the administration believes. Its national energy strategy (NES) recommends exploration in coastal waters that Congress keeps under its pillow, and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while keeping the environment tidy. All told, the US may have 290 quads of undiscovered conventional reserves.

Also, the NES aims to encourage fuel-switching to cut demand for oil, and technology advances to unlock the two-thirds of US oil resources - 1,800 quads - that conventional production methods can't extract. …

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US ENERGY: PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE Petroleum Remains No. 1 Fuel, but US Production Sags. OIL Series: POWERING THE US INTO THE 21st CENTURY. Part 1 of 5 Part Series. Second of Five Stories Appearing Today
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