Relative contributions of energy sources to total U.S. energy consumption in 2006.

Relative contributions of energy sources to total U.S. energy consumption in 2006.

choices and business decisions, climate change, and the pace of developments in science and engineering. Any of these factors can change in a very short period of time.


Still, if the economy and the inflation rate perform as expected and there are no drastic geopolitical changes or dramatic technological breakthroughs, objective forecasts show that traditional supplies of petroleum, gas, and coal will be adequate to meet expanded demand for decades.

OIL

The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, is home to one-third of the world’s automobiles. Over the next 20 years, the total number of miles driven by Americans is forecasted to grow by 40%, increasing the demand for fuel. Yet there is little

that can be done locally to increase the oil supply. U.S. domestic production of crude oil peaked around 1970 at about 9.5 million barrels per day (MBD) and had declined to 5.1 MBD by 2006. Today America imports almost two-thirds of its oil from a handful of nations. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), a U.S. government agency that provides official energy statistics and forecasts, expects U.S. production of oil to remain approximately constant through 2030, while imports are projected to rise gradually to about 70% of consumption.


So the basic question remains: How long can we maintain our petroleum dependency? The EIA cites known conventional oil reserves at more than 1.3 trillion barrels worldwide, and the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there may be another 600 billion barrels undiscovered to date.


At present, total world consumption is approximately 85 MBD, 21 million of which is used by the United States. The nation’s dependency on oil and the rapidly rising demand for oil in other countries, such as China and India, are heightening concern that we will reach a point where the oil supply can no longer be increased to meet projected demand. While this will certainly be true eventually, there is no consensus as to whether we are already entering that period or it is decades away. Pinning down an exact time frame is nearly impossible as estimates



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement