Expanding domestic drilling will, at best, give us a couple of years, then plunge us into 100% dependence on foreign oil
According to the Energy Information Agency, the United States has proven reserves of 22.3 billion barrels of oil. Given our current rate of consumption of 6.9 billion barrels a year, U.S. reserves could meet our demand for oil for less than 3.5 years. That means if we could somehow drill here, now, and everywhere, we could be energy independent until the middle of 2014 and then we would be 100 percent dependent on imported oil.
Of course, we cannot suddenly suck all the oil out of the ground at once, it takes time to explore and drill wells and then the oil must be drilled out over time. If we decided that we want to destroy every last national park and coastal region, we may be able to increase production by 1.0-1.5 million barrels a day in 5-10 years. At the high end, this would be a bit less than 2 percent of world supply.
Given normal assumptions about how demand responds to price, we would be very lucky to see a 6 percent decline in the price of oil. This means that in the most optimistic “drill everywhere” scenario we would save less than 20 cents from our $4 a gallon gas. More likely the savings would be less than half this size.
In other words, when a politician says that they want to end environmental restrictions on drilling in order to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil or bring the price of gas down, they are speaking utter nonsense. The correct response of a reporter to such assertions would be to say something like: “Senator, you know that the United States does not have nearly enough oil to be energy independent or to substantially reduce the price of gas.”