Washington, DC Oct. 14, 2000 SolarQuest® iNet News Service
We donít yet know which candidate will win the Presidential election but whoever it is will face some tough decisions. The United States is in the throes of an intractable energy crisis with supplies of indigenous oil and gas falling, and the cost of imports soaring. A cold winter will leave freezing and disappointed voters in the northern States. Already the high price of fuel has been a central theme of the election. It also caused a mild revolt in Europe as benign farmers and truckers almost brought Britain to a standstill by blocking the refinery gates for a few days. Everybody now relies on oil supply.
The new President will not have much time to determine a policy. We can imagine him in the Oval Room calling in desperation through to one of his aides, "How much of the stuff is there, anyway?"
The likely response will be: "Sir, the United States Geological Survey has been prepared for this question with a new study."
When all 32,000 pages on four CDs are delivered, the President will likely ask, "What does it mean? What does all this probability ranking signify?"
The aide will reply: "Sir, they assembled a committee of experts and asked them to assess the undiscovered potential of every basin and then ranked the answers by their probability of being right."
The President replies, "I see, something like: thereís a 95% probability that I am a fine upstanding man and leader of the free world, and thereís a 5% probability that I am a frog?"
"Less than 5%, Sir Ė but thatís roughly what it means." The President then calls for a graph to see how the estimates compare with past discovery, and is duly presented with one.
He reasonably concludes that the P95 of 239 billion barrels is the only one to be taken seriously. He then asks about the notion of Reserve Growth that features prominently in the study.
The aide explains: "Sir, reserves canít be measured, only estimated. To prevent fraud, the SEC imposed strict rules that only oil being tapped by a producing well could be counted. Accordingly, the reserves grew as the field was drilled up. But offshore and internationally, it is a bit different because they have to have a good estimate to begin with because they need to design the platform and facilities correctly. Furthermore, modern technology gives better estimates than were possible long ago."
"Whatís the range there?" asks the President.
The aide replies: "They have 192 to 1031 billion barrels for the world outside the US and a Mean value of 674 billion for the world as a whole."
The President shrewdly observes, "I think Iíll go with the low number, because I canít believe all those old fields are going to be able to deliver so much more than currently estimated. You tell me that internationally they go with the better estimates to begin with."
As an afterthought, the President asks where the most promising USGS area is.
"Greenland." the aide replies. "The range there is 0 Ė 47 Ė 112 billion barrels and they treat it as part of North America."
"Thatís handy Ė Iím sure glad we donít have to rely on the Middle East," replied the President.
"Had bad news, Sir," admitted the aide. "Just heard that Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, has drilled a dry hole on the prime prospect."
The President: "I told you so, itís only the low end of the range that is worth anything. When they said zero, thatís what they meant."
With that, the President turns to reflect on what to do about it. He realises that the World will have to rely mainly on the inheritance of what is left from past discovery, half of which lies in five Middle East countries. He wisely rejects the idea of taking it by force.
He calls his aide again: "Weíve only one option and that is to figure out how to use less. Weíd better figure it out fast too. The voters ainít happy"