A recent New York Times article described an upcoming BP effort (the same BP of Gulf of Mexico fame) to proceed with plans to drill for oil in a previously-identified oil field three miles off the coast of Alaska, in the Beaufort Sea. While the article nicely details some of the now-expected shenanigans which provided the necessary “authorizations” for BP to drill (not the least of which is the fact that back in 2007, BP apparently drafted its own environmental review, which the Bush Administration was all-too-content to accept), what struck me as most noteworthy was the following:

“BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.”

Let’s think about this for a moment.

BP is planning to drill two miles beneath the sea—in the barely hospitable Arctic region, mind you—and then another 6 to 8 miles horizontally (still in the Arctic), so they can gain access to a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil. Let those details sink in.

As I noted in a prior post, as did Kurt Cobb (here), one of the exasperating features of peak oil reporting is the oversight/failure/neglect to explain some of the most salient facts about reservoirs being sought or tapped for oil production. This otherwise very informative NYT article is guilty of the same.

If BP is 100% successful at this Liberty Field, and they produced all 100 million barrels by breakfast next Monday, we will have found enough oil to get the planet through an early lunch on Tuesday – a grand total of about 28 HOURS. Not 28 days, not 28 weeks, not 28 months, not 28 years … 28 hours, give or take.

If we wanted to be really selfish and share none of it on the open market, then it would get the United States through most of next week’s work week. Period. We wouldn’t have enough left to get us into the weekend.


One hundred million suddenly seems like a pretty measly amount. Worse when you consider the what and the where and the how of this specific drilling venture. Let’s not forget that production from this field won’t be a cozy 2 or 3 week endeavor. If history is any guide, it will be years before any sizeable yields are on the books. As it stands, by 2013 the expectation is 40,000 barrels per day. Wheeee! (I’m guessing this is going to be a wee bit costly, given that the land rig alone cost BP a tidy $200 million. Pretty sure those are the kinds of costs oil companies like to pass on at the pump.)

These are the options big oil corporations are left with. Yet there remains a loud chorus of ardent knuckleheads who talk all kinds of nonsense about how much oil is left for us to use for the next umpteen decades so doncha worry and how Peak Oil proponents are some fringe group of crazed pessimists the rest of us would do well to just ignore; or they prefer the magic of economics and price points and inflation and consumers’ price tolerances and all that other information (or worse, the magic of as-yet undiscovered technologies riding to the rescue) that doesn’t have any impact whatsoever on how much oil actually remains reasonably accessible for our use in the normal course of our days.

By all means keep on denying the many signs (facts) of Peak Oil if that floats your boat. Won’t get you much, but why accept responsibility for doing something about a challenge if we can either pass that on to someone else or just remain blissfully ignorant and just keep a-hopin’ and a-prayin’. You betcha!

Those of us who recognize the sheer folly of placing our future economic well-being on a wing and a prayer owe it to themselves and others to begin working and planning together so that we offer ourselves the best possible chances of avoiding the very consequences that pinning our hopes on magic technology and pure denial will lead to.

We have better choices, and we are free to make better decisions, painful though some of them may surely be. Better to have a say than not.

NOTE: Starting a long weekend with family obligations thrown in as of Wednesday, so I may post once more this week and will then likely be off until the middle of next week. Enjoy the holiday!