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In a recent diary about the recent energy bill, lots of people noted that oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be little more than a drop in the bucket.  Even if it all entered the U.S., rather than being sold overseas, it's a tiny amount compared to current U.S. consumption.

How tiny?  Tiny enough to be completely lost in the noise of a more rational approach to gasoline usage.  More below...

According to the Department of Energy's analysis of the area, the Arctic National Wildife Refuge probably contains about 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.  This is the "mean" or middle-of-the-road estimate.  At the "mean", the DOE figured the peak daily extraction is 876,000 barrels per day.

For the moment, let's forget this is peak daily production (i.e., much of the time, it'll be less).  Also, let's forget that much of this oil will be sold outside the U.S.  So, with optimism fully engaged, onward.

There are about 300 million people in the United States, so everyone's personal share works out to   0.0029 barrels per day.  Refining crude oil gives about 20 gallons of gasoline per barrel, so every day, every person in the U. S. gets an extra  0.0584 gallons of gas.   How much is that?  It's 7.47 fluid ounces.  Just barely under a cup, if you like.  Not a lot -- after all, we usually fill our cars with multiple gallons, not cups.

Anyway, let's figure out how much that cup of gasoline gets you.  Typical gas mileage in the city -- where most people run their errands -- is about 20 mpg.  It's a lot less if you have a big SUV.   At 20 mpg, every person's extra 0.058 gallons of gas per day is enough to drive (0.058 x 20) = 1.16 miles.

That's your share of the ANWR.  At peak production, you get an extra cup of gasoline, which is about enough to drive 1 mile a day.  I can think of lots of ways many of us can travel 1 mile per day without using any gas, and so without any drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Like using a pair of these:

or a pair of these:

or one of these:

or one of these:

or following the example of the folks in the small car on the left:

or for that matter, checking the proper condition of these:

since proper tire pressure can add a mpg or two, thus giving you your 1 extra mile per day if you have a longish commute.

Even in the most optimistic scenarios, peak production is about 2 times higher (1,595,000 barrels per day).  So you might -- just might -- get 2 miles per day out of the ANWR oil instead of 1 -- if everything is unexpectedly good.

And, remember, all of this makes three very optimistic assumptions.  

  1. All the ANWR oil goes back into the U.S.  Everything I've seen suggests it'll just go on the global market and only a portion will end up here in the U.S.  

  2. Peak production is typical.  It isn't.  For much of the lifetime of the ANWR oil reserves, production will be lower than that 876 thousand barrels per day.

  3. All the ANWR oil goes to personal consumption as gasoline.  In reality, some will become heating oil, some will become diesel fuel, some will become jet fuel, some will fuel commercial car and truck in reality, the oil will be spread much thinner.  

As a result, the amount that goes to personal consumption by most individuals might be a lot less.  It could possibly be just a few hundred feet per day, most of the time, depending on where the oil's going and how it's being used.  So you might not be able to get out of your average suburban neighborhood each day on your share of the ANWR oil.  And for this...we sacrifice yet another huge chunk of our netural heritage.

Originally posted to ColoRambler on Sun May 01, 2005 at 10:31 AM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  What I'm doing (none)
    1. I walk everywhere, within reason (say, 3 or 4 mile round trip).  Then again, I've done it since grade school, so I'm used to it.

    2. I got a used bike at a garage sale recently and am re-learning how to ride after a long (about 25 year) break.  I'm doing this mostly for fitness, but being able to do small errands by bike is something that appeals to me too.

    3. The biggest:  I telecommute.  This was admittedly an accident of history -- I moved, and since I can do all my work via the Internet, my employer agreed to a telecommuting setup.  I probably wouldn't be telecommuting from my original residence.   This is the biggest oil saver (probably 20x my share of ANWR oil, or more, a day), but I admit it doesn't work for everyone.

    So..what are you doing, and how many ANWR oil shares (miles per day) does it save?

    "You will see light in the darkness. You will make some sense of this."

    by ColoRambler on Sun May 01, 2005 at 10:41:58 AM PDT

  •  Great diary--but you forgot to post (none)
    a picture of a bus!  This seems to be a foreign concept to any American who can afford a car--it just never occurs to so many of us.  I've had friends (who I otherwise respect) tell me they're "afraid" to take a bus--they describe the bus system as something they don't understand, as if it will take them away somewhere they'll never get back from.  Mystifies me.

    ...the White House will be adorned by a downright moron...H.L. Mencken

    by bibble on Sun May 01, 2005 at 10:48:10 AM PDT

    •  No fear here (none)
      In my previous residence (before I telecommuted), both my home and my office were within 3 blocks of several bus routes.  There was a time that I took the bus to work almost exclusively, taking the car only when I thought I might be working late.

      "You will see light in the darkness. You will make some sense of this."

      by ColoRambler on Sun May 01, 2005 at 10:52:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  kids/teens should be educated (none)
      in school about how to ride the bus in their community--where to get schedule and route info, how to interpret it, using transfers, park & ride, bus/bike, staying safe on the bus and at bus stops, and also the various advantages of public transit. There is a learning curve for someone who has never ridden a bus or doesn't know the local routes, and a lot of people have notions of stigma or danger associated with bus ridership. It needs to be taught as a true and empowering transportation option that isn't just for people who can't afford a car.
    •  How narrow-minded. (none)
      You forgot the subway! You really need to start thinking outside the bus!


  •  How long would supply LAST? (none)
    How long would the proven supplies give everyone their cup?  Seems important to include this.  Nice work so far though.
    •  ANWR peak in this model (none)
      is expected to be about a decade after oil extraction starts (in the middle-of-the-road case, the peak is in 2024, assuming development starts in 2013).

      After the peak, production falls off gradually -- not as rapidly as it ramps up during the rise to peak production.  I believe the total "lifetime" for these scenarios is about 40 years, but I'm not entirely sure.

      "You will see light in the darkness. You will make some sense of this."

      by ColoRambler on Sun May 01, 2005 at 11:17:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  please (none)
    send this to inouye, akaka and all the other !@#$%& senators who voted for drilling.  seriously.  please.  this rocks.
  •  Beautiful (none)
    This is an absolutely beautiful diary.  I really don't care about drilling in ANWR, because I think there are far more pressing environmental issues to deal with in this country...but I've been telling people since I first started blogging that drilling in ANWR will make absolutely no difference in our energy supplies.

    Now that is a way to use math.  Even if you're wrong by a factor of 2 or 3, you're talking 2 or 3 miles at most.

  •  1 more thing (none)
    Also...I'm not certain how good your estimate of 20 gallons of gas per barrel is.  The page you reference gives the 20 gallon per barrel number, but I'm more than willing to be that the 20 gpb number is the number on something like Saudi light sweet crude, not heavier, more contaminated oils.

    The stuff in Alaska is in general pretty darn poor stuff.  Its heavy oil, it takes a lot of refining to turn it into gasoline, and I would be willing to bet that you'd get less per barrel than you would from Middle Eastern oil fields.

    •  Wouldn't surprise me. (none)
      This reminds me a little of the controversy in Utah when the Grand Staircase National Monument was proposed.  You may recall this was a huge Clinton designation, about 10 years ago, in south-central Utah.  It sits on top of a huge coal field -- one of the largest (if not the largest) in Utah.  So a lot of people opposed the monument on economic grounds, saying it was best to allow coal mining there.

      However, the coal in that field has appreciably lower quality than the coal already being mined elsewhere in Utah.  Furthermore, these existing high-quality fields have a long way to go before they're impractical to mine.  So the Grand Staircase area  wouldn't have been much use (for coal, that is) for a long time, if at all.  In short, the main economic reason to oppose the national monument was vastly overstated.

      "You will see light in the darkness. You will make some sense of this."

      by ColoRambler on Sun May 01, 2005 at 01:23:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (none)
    Yesterday's diary on this topic contained a particuarly salient quote from glattonfolly:

    Call your Senator, and ask him if he/she is willing to support drilling in America's last great wilderness if the oil goes to China or Japan.  Ask them if they are willing to go on record supporting Arctic oil going to the far east.

    That is likely where this oil will be going. This news will not play well in peoria.

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