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United States Technology

Oil May Be Finite, But U.S. Production Is Ramping Up 745

Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that the discovery of the gigantic and prolific Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota have already helped move the U.S. into third place among world oil producers, and according to Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, the 14th-largest oil company in America, if fully developed the field in Bakken contains 24 billion barrels, doubling America's proven oil reserves. One reason for America's abundant supply of oil and natural gas has been the development of new drilling techniques, including 'horizontal drilling,' which allows rigs to reach two miles into the ground and then spread horizontally by thousands of feet." Not surprisingly, Hamm considers some of the current administration's loans and subsidies for alternative energy ventures to be misplaced.
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Oil May Be Finite, But U.S. Production Is Ramping Up

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  • Don't they get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pcjunky ( 517872 ) <> on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:44AM (#37653574) Homepage

    No matter how much oil we find here it would be unwise to burn. Hot planet!

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:59AM (#37653626)

    So they maybe found enough for three years and a half years of consumption at current rates. The problem is now truly solved.

  • by rapierian ( 608068 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:59AM (#37653630)

    Has he never heard of CO2? Why would any sane person want to burn all that and turn it into CO2?

    Oh, yeah, profit. Fuck the Earth and all future generations, there's profit to be made! I can own sixteen mansions instead of twelve and have a bigger yacht.

    Because the only people who make any money are the CEOs with the twelve mansions you mention? What about the tens of thousands of jobs that we could use in our economy, right now - or the fact that energy prices are climbing precisely when Americans are suffering through the toughest economic times since the 1920s?

  • Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:00AM (#37653638)

    Not surprisingly, Hamm considers some of the current administration's loans and subsidies for alternative energy ventures to be misplaced.

    That guy is an idiot.

    24e9 barrels / 20e6 barrels per day just for the US / 365 days per year = a bit more than a 3 year supply, assuming it can all be recovered. Realistic recovery ratios are always WAY less than 100%... Figure just several months supply, realistically.

    So, some 1%er will make hundreds of billions of profit.. nice for him... and 3 years later, we'll be wishing you had a solar panel... []

  • Thank . (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:02AM (#37653648)

    Gas prices have doubled since this insane crusade against energy started. It's killing our economy at a time when it doesn't really need any more help.

    This might well give us the relief needed to weather the current political and ideological insanity that is making our energy policy self destructive.

    We'll use other sources of power eventually. But right NOW... we need that oil.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:05AM (#37653664)

    I love how "climatologists" are economically driven by grant money (as if a competent scientist couldn't make a better living easier working for private industry than working for government grants!) but oil producers are altruists who clearly have only humanity's best interests at heart.

  • by Bayoudegradeable ( 1003768 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:09AM (#37653680)
    Regulations are so tight that Mr. Hamm has only been able to make the top 50 wealthiest Americans. This administration is killing billionaires! When a hard working man can't go from say, number 33 to number 5 in total wealth, it is time for us to realize Obama is killing oil production! (and now for something completely different)

    Hamm has the nerve to say Obama is killing US oil with regulations?? How the hell have we ramped up production in the last 5 years if the regulations are so bad? Why are companies developing the Bakken if regulations are so bad? More like they aren't making as much money as they want. Cause billions upon billions just is never enough... never enough. The greed is beyond repulsive; it's psychotic.

    (Happily will admit that US production helps keeps gas prices from soaring. I am not complaining about oil production. I am pointing out the greed of these bastards is insatiable.)
  • Re:Thank . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:12AM (#37653698)

    Kind of sounds like a drug addict. "I'm going to quit eventually, but right now I need that hit."

  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:15AM (#37653718)
    You're going to die no matter what, so who cares if you smoke and eat junk food all day? Sounds like a rationalization to do what you want to without regards to the consequences.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:16AM (#37653722)

    Because clearly the best way to fix a leaking ship is stuffing the holes with primed time bombs.

  • Re:Thank . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:23AM (#37653770)
    Gas was as expensive as it is now when Bush was in office. In any case, your argument is post hoc ergo proper hoc [].
  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:26AM (#37653784) Journal

    But for now we're just fine.

    That reminds me about the man who fell off a tall building, and every time he passed another floor he said to himself, "so far, so good!"

  • by DaleGlass ( 1068434 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:27AM (#37653794) Homepage

    Your first link: 165 million barrels.
    US consumption: about 20 million per day.

    Yep, an 8 days supply proves that there's nothing to worry about.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:29AM (#37653812) Homepage Journal

    So, some 1%er will make hundreds of billions of profit.. nice for him... and 3 years later, we'll be wishing you had a solar panel...

    - isn't oil what you want? If you didn't want it, why would you buy it?

    If you think you have something better to offer, go ahead, offer it. Of-course somebody who develops an oil field and sells that product will be in top 1% of earners, what else is new? Do you know why he is going to be there? Because 100% of people want that product.

  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:33AM (#37653836)
    Alternative energy sources need to be researched and then they will create many, many more jobs without killing the climate.
  • by SlippyToad ( 240532 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:34AM (#37653846)

    What about the tens of thousands of jobs that we could use in our economy, right now

    Renewables are much more likely to produce jobs, and improve our economic outlook. Continuing to service the needs of the oil companies has not improved our economic outlook for a decade now. Why do you think it might suddenly start?

  • planet heating (Score:3, Insightful)

    by texas neuron ( 710330 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:41AM (#37653882) Homepage
    Pretty clear from the charts that the CO2 levels are rising because of man made contributions. It is also completely clear that the models linking rising CO2 to rising temperature are not quantitatively accurate (temperature flat for 10 years while CO2 continues the predicted rise). [] . The question now is whether or not the the models are even qualitatively accurate. Being an engineer, I do not think the climate scientist have models to the 4th significant figure.
  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:43AM (#37653892)

    I agree with you on the need for Government investment in things like alternative energy. My problem is in giving blank checks out like happened with the recent half billion dollars green energy scam. Giving any corporation a blank check is asking to get screwed, no matter if it's a "green" enery research project or a wall street bank that's, uh, bankrupt. You can guarantee that large chunks of that money are, at the least, going to get wasted if not just outright disappear. The best thing the US Govt. could do for solar energy would be to start a multi-billion dollar program to install solar panels on all Federal Buildings. This would help reduce the carbon footprint of these facilities as well as providing income to the solar panel producers. It would create jobs and best of all drive down the cost of panels for everyone due to the mass production volume going to a much higher level. Also, at the end of the day, the Govt. would actually have something to show for their money besides a bunch of rich executives being investigated for fraud.

  • by rossjudson ( 97786 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:47AM (#37653926) Homepage

    Yeah -- let's eke out every last bit of strategic oil in US territory! And let's cram it into a bunch of stupid SUVs!! Because That's How America Uses Oil!!!

    And let's do this all in the next decade or two, guaranteeing the current generation of oil billionaires a semi-permanent place in history, as the last such. They can get started on their even more gated communities, and wall their future families in thoroughly.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RebelWithoutAClue ( 578771 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:58AM (#37653994) Homepage
    That's political peak oil. We aren't allowed to drill in many areas like ANWR.
  • by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:01AM (#37654024)

    This guy can't drill oil at low prices ... it's the increased price which is making shale oil profitable, and then only just (which is why he's crying for subsidies, to make even less easily recovered oil profitable). There are security reasons to have your own oil supply, but cheap it's never going to become again.

    Wind/Solar and "synthetic natural gas" [sic] have much a better chance of getting large cost reductions going forward.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:03AM (#37654040) Homepage Journal

    The reason why people buy it is because the oil industry has successfully stalled efforts to replace it with something that's less polluting and renewable.

    - and you call ME an idiot with this IDIOTIC assertion?

    What a bunch of nonsense. Do you know why people are still using oil and coal and gas today? It's because it's the CHEAPEST and most abundant, easiest to use, easiest to transport, easiest to store and easiest to handle solution.

    You don't have to grow it like corn and reprocess it into ethanol, you don't have to design security procedures around it that are equivalent of those used in nuclear power, you don't have liquefy it and hold it under extreme pressure like hydrogen, it has very dense energy content per volume and mass (of-course nuclear beats it, but every time [] I suggest a nuclear car, everybody freaks out []).

    Oil and gas and coal are not going anywhere until they are so expensive to extract, because technology can no longer be used to extract them cheaply, that even nuclear option becomes feasible, be it with nuclear power car engines or be it with nuclear power plants everywhere and completely redesigned infrastructure to support everybody driving an electric vehicle.

    Your paranoia, that somebody had to sit and devise a way to destroy your water propelled car just to sell more oil is the idiotic fantasy, not my assertion that 100% of population wants oil, coal and gas - because they do.

    Every single piece of bread you ate in your life was brought to you by oil, coal and gas (and in some cases nuclear). From fertilizers, to transport, to the heat of a stove, to your bus, to your elevator at home.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:04AM (#37654044)

    People have been saying that since 1920... well... they said it would run out in 1920... and then they said it would run out in 1950... and then they said it would run out in 1980... and then they said it would run out in 2000...

    I get it. I was running a little short on breakfast cereal this week. I thought that my remaining breakfast reserves would run out on Thursday, but I managed to reduce consumption a little by only eating three quarters of a bowl. And then on Friday I added some fruit to eke it out a bit further. On Saturday I discovered some leftover bread and ate that. So here I am, on Sunday, and I still have some bread left. THEREFORE I CONCLUDE THAT I WILL NEVER HAVE TO GO SHOPPING AGAIN AS I WILL NEVER, EVER RUN OUT OF BREAKFAST RESERVES. WHEN MY RESERVES ARE LOW, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE NEW FOOD TO DISCOVER IN MY KITCHEN.

    See any problem here?

  • Re:Idiot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:06AM (#37654064)

    People have been saying that since 1920... well... they said it would run out in 1920... and then they said it would run out in 1950... and then they said it would run out in 1980... and then they said it would run out in 2000...

    Ahh. I'm so relieved. At last, we have proof -- incontrovertible evidence that there is, in fact, an infinite supply of oil. Thank you. Thank Jesus.

  • Re:Thank . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lintux ( 125434 ) <> on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:12AM (#37654100) Homepage

    Assuming you're indeed an American, quit whining about gas prices and it "killing the economy". Apparently one dollar per liter is currently considered "zomg expensive" (ref: []). In Europe, ten years ago, one liter costed anything between 99 and 109 EUROcents (that's $1.32-$1.45). You don't even want to know what they're paying there now.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:22AM (#37654156) Journal

    Christ you deniers freak me out. It's simple mathematics. The stuff is finite, we've been tapping it for years, it's beginning to reduce in discoveries and production, in the very least - less is being found. It doesn't 'magically grow back' - logically we should be preparing for the possibility that we simply have none.

    Same with the 'keep breeding' crowd. Finite sized rock with finite resources, oxygen, water, food capable land, wood, oil, minerals, hell even finite real estate for solar panels.

    Simple logic dictates we must be sensible about this. Infact DECENT logic actually implies we should abso-damn-loutely be self sufficient, capable of living indefinitely, assuming the sun doesn't die out (soon) - however it will (eventually)

    Humanity is reducing the quantity of fish, wood and minerals from the planet, we simply can't live how we live now, it's simple mathematics and logic. It makes utterly no sense to be anything BUT self sufficient for the long haul.

  • Solyndra (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:26AM (#37654168)

    Yes and Solyndra is a perfect example of this great job producing industry right? No you are talking about creating non sustainable employment with cash taken from the taxpayer. Green energy companies are not profitable and will not be profitable anytime in the future.

    I would love to see it myself also but unfortunately I can do simple math.

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:40AM (#37654256)

    Well, it depends what you mean by "cheap". Cheap compared to, say, the mid/late-90s? No. We'll probably never see 99c/gallon gas again in our lifetimes (at least, not under any scenario not involving massive government subsidies to maintain artificially-low prices and rationing of that artificially-cheap (and almost certainly scarce) gas).

    Cheap compared to $4/gallon? Probably. The magic price point for shale to become profitable is retail gas prices of approximately $3/gallon. Until the oil industry is convinced that the retail price of gas (taking inflation and taxes into account) will never sustainably fall below that price, it's not going to bet the farm on shale without government subsidies, because something like $2.50/gallon (retail price) is pretty much the absolute floor value at which it can even keep shale operations running without it being worthwhile to just walk away from them. On the other hand, if the US went enthusiastically into shale mining, we can feel pretty confident that no matter what happens to Saudi Arabia or demand from China and India, gas in the US won't ever creep much above $3-4/gallon ever again once production ramps up to maximum levels. The devil's in the $3 detail -- if Saudi-level oil reserves were conclusively identified in Alaska and Congress gave the go-ahead, or China and/or India suddenly found similar Saudi-like domestic oil reserves, shale would become cost-ineffective almost overnight, so it's going to be a LONG time before the oil industry as a whole will be willing to "bet the farm" on shale.

    Put another way, environmentalists celebrating dwindling oil reserves in Saudi Arabia with the hope that it's going to force naughty Americans to conserve gas are likely to be in for a bit of a long-term disappointment. The US has a shitload of petroleum... it's just locked up in places we aren't currently allowed to drill and in forms that aren't very nice (economically or environmentally). The fact is, the US economy depends upon cheap petroleum, as does every modern economy on earth. Europeans (or at least Germans) might willingly march back to stone age lifestyles in the holy name of Mother Earth, but Americans (and Russians, and Indians, and China) won't stand for it. The medium-term alternative to oil isn't solar and wind power... it's nuclear fission and coal. Fight shale and nuclear, and the real-world outcome won't be sunny skies and clean solar energy... it's going to be skies that look like those over industrial cities in China, and overburdened reactors built in an era where redundant levels of safety weren't deemed to be important.

    The smart "green" strategy would be to push for the replacement of old nuclear reactors with modern ones, and the construction of new ones, to keep energy prices low enough that it's cheaper for consumers to buy electric cars and charge them with nuclear-generated electricity than to buy gas manufactured from oil shale, ethanol, or processed coal. Solar and wind power are economic dead ends, because both have serious scalability and 24/7-availability problems. The fact is, it's just plain cheaper to generate a gigawatt of power in one place and transmit it a hundred miles over power lines than it is to generate a megawatt in a thousand different places, each of which has to be individually maintained and kept in good repair. It was true back when Tesla & Westinghouse argued with Edison, and it's still true today. If you need a point source of electricity far from existing infrastructure, solar and wind might be cheaper. If you need 24/7/365 dependable electricity in the middle of even a small town with existing power transmission infrastructure, it's almost inconceivable that any market-priced solar/wind solution could ever viably compete with any centralized power generation scenario.

  • Re:Solyndra (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:51AM (#37654300)
    Green companies are (usually*) not profitable when competing with . . . uh . . . "dirtier" competitors without government subsidies . . .

    But, as any one could have guessed this was coming, that's not factoring in that said competitors are inherently subsidized by not paying for all external costs. That's a very, very important note. Coal is cheap and profitable, but has huge external costs. Nuclear is very expensive and nowhere near as profitable, but it pays off a much higher portion of its external costs. Same with a lot of greener technology. So it's a market failure that's helping tip the scales.

    * There are exceptions, of course. I've heard that the paper industry has been moving progressively more sustainable because it's in their favor. IIRC, modern paper plants obtain most of their power from their own waste. They still do pollute, but then again I imagine that's the fundamental nature of having to serve a tremendous worldwide demand.
  • Re:planet heating (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:11PM (#37654436) Homepage

    The model isn't perfect yet, but the science behind the greenhouse effect has been well understood for over a century.

    Are we supposed to ignore the basic chemistry, all the obvious physical signs (melting glaciers, early springtimes, etc) until we have a 100% perfect model of a massive, fairly chaotic system? Just so somebody can make a quick buck?

  • Re:Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:18PM (#37654482) Homepage
    So we completely fuck up a lovely piece of nature for about a year's worth of oil? This of course assume they don't cock it up and spill half of it all over the countryside. []

    The DOE reported that annual United States consumption of crude oil and petroleum products was 7.55 billion barrels (1.200×109 m3) in 2006 and again in 2007, totaling 15.1 billion barrels (2.40×109 m3).[38] In comparison, the USGS estimated that the ANWR reserve contains 10.4 billion barrels (1.65×109 m3). Although, only 7.7 billion barrels (1.22×109 m3) were thought to be within the proposed drilling region.[17]

    It's true green sources aren't quite ready yet but it would make more sense to pour money into improving those rather than dicking about and ruining our countryside to delay the inevitable by a year.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:28PM (#37654556) Homepage Journal

    Ask your grandpa what a factory was like before the EPA. Environmentalism a luxury in poor countries? Yeah, and so is food.

    You have no right to dirty up MY air and water. Clean air is my right.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:48PM (#37654718)
    You have it exactly backwards. If you were right, why was there so much innovation in the UK in WW2, when there were food and fuel shortages? In fact, if the economy is at a lower base and the costs of labor are lower, it is cheaper to adapt. If people are simply used to very expensive living standards, they will resist change. A good example is that the US was more affected than Europe by oil price rises - because the average European house is half the size of the average US house, the average European car uses half as much fuel - so individuals were actually less affected.

    The idea that only an oil-intensive economy is capable of adaptation is laughable.

  • by Lockejaw ( 955650 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @01:04PM (#37654850)

    Because his "no warming since 1998" claim relies on some serious cherry-picking of temperature data, and he's afraid of people linking this dishonesty back to him.

  • by RebelWithoutAClue ( 578771 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @01:16PM (#37654912) Homepage

    War is different, all sorts of things happen due to necessity during wartime. People accept all sorts of limits for the duration of a war.

    "It's better to keep people poor, so they can be more environmentally friendly." Is that a fair summary of what you're trying to say ? This is generally not true poorer countries are generally not as environmentally friendly as rich ones.

    It is the bigger economy, the stronger economy which is better capable of adaptation. See the difference between floods in say Katrina and floods in Pakistan. A richer country could afford to spend more on gas, and also more on alternate sources of energy, if and when peak oil occurs.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @02:20PM (#37655256)

    OK, guys here's the deal.

    First review the numbers around oil (i.e. how much we've got and what that means energetically). For that, look here: []

    Then look here to see how much we have access to in the USA: [].

    I'd refer everyone to a web site for consumption rates, but the ballpark answer is that the world uses 28-30 billion barrels of oil per year, and the USA uses between 7-8 billion barrels per year. We have about 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable conventional oil left. Perhaps about 50% of that is economically recoverable today. Perhaps a bit more as prices rise, if prices don't rise enough to break the world's supply chains or cause nationalistic hoarding - two very distinct possibilities.

    The most optimistic assumptions regarding conventional oil that's both energetically and economically profitable is about 40 years max. Realistically, expect about half that. After that, we're um, scraping the bottom of the barrel. Oil doesn't disappear (It never will). We just won't be using it as much. Too expensive energetically and economically.

    Bottom line? All the "Drill ANWR and we're saved " idiots would have us destroy the Alaska ecosystem for about 2 years extension of our oil supply. Every moronic Reuters news story that so breathlessly reports that over 1 billion barrels of oil have been found ignores the fact that 1 billion barrels is less than 2 months supply just for the USA, much less the planet.

    There are plenty of alternatives and solutions, just none that involve having 7 billion people or more living on Earth in the year 2100 using as much energy as an American uses today.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @04:19PM (#37656050) Homepage Journal

    Nobody says climatologists are pure altruists. All people say is that they're generally competent at their jobs, and aren't especially corrupt. Because there's no legitimate reason to say otherwise. There are illegitimate reasons to say otherwise: liars, polluters, the generally corrupt and the stupid have plenty of illegitimate reasons.

    Success as a scientist requires that a lot of the science profession agrees that you have professional integrity. Science has some of the most objective, testable and routinely tested criteria for integrity.

    Climatologists are professionals who overwhelmingly say humans are making too much CO2, because it's causing the climate to change in damaging ways. Corrupt and stupid people lie about that for their own personal (or simply psychological) benefit. It's not any more complicated than that.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @06:11PM (#37656800)

    And when you finally do decide to use those forbidden or more difficult to reach cereal boxes/bread, you'll learn from your earlier experience and really work to spread them out over a longer time than your original box.

    ... and will therefore never run out of cereal again??

    Whichever way you look at it, that dude is going to go hungry for breakfast at some stage unless he starts investing in alternative breakfast sources soon ...

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972