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Limitless?

May 1, 2013

Hey, it’s been a while since we talked about shale oil and energy policy.  Luckily, the government provides (say that like a robot, it sounds better). Oh, and thanks to Hot Air for the pointer.

The federal government is doubling its estimate of how much oil might be discovered and harvested in the booming area of the Dakotas and Montana, a region that’s already helping to drive the United States’ dramatic shift into a role as the world’s leading oil producer.

“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday in a conference call.

Of note, there’s a new formation in the Dakotas and Montana with a few billion (to likely tens of billions) barrels of potential energy.  Note, this doesn’t mean we can immediately get to it.  Even if the technology exists, that doesn’t mean it’s cost-effective to get to them.  But technology changes, and cost structures change.  It’s good news that we continue to find mine-able energy here in the US.

Overall, we continue to discover energy deposits all over the world.  It’s working to improve the lives of many people, and it’s certainly making some formerly-poor countries very rich.  Oh, and speaking of one of those…

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al Naimi, said Tuesday that he welcomed the United States’ new bounty into the global oil market. But he said it wouldn’t mean an end to America’s “so-called” reliance on foreign sources of oil.

“I believe this talk of ending reliance is a naive, a rather simplistic view. . . . Talk of energy independence fails to recognize the interconnected nature of the global energy markets,” he said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research center in Washington .

America will still use a range of energy sources to meet domestic demand, Naimi predicted. A better question than whether America is energy independent, he said, might be whether the United States starts allowing exports of its crude.

Most of the world doesn’t really want our oil.  We tend to be more in the heavy, sour crude oil category, which is harder to refine.  But I do believe that energy independence is not attainable in the US, but not because of lack of resources.

The real issue here is that we don’t have the capacities to refine and utilize what we already have, or even to some extent what we can get on the market.  Last year, a refinery fire in Washington causes supply shortages that raised gas prices in the Northwest and California by almost a dollar.  If there’s truly industry demand, I’d expect that we’d see more petitioning for resources to refine it… oh, wait, it’s nearly impossible to actually get state and federal permits to plant refineries…

So the limit of the US for controlling our energy destiny is still the need to safely refine and transport it.  For now, we’ve got the potential, but not the ability to go kinetic on our energy plans.

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