increased domestic exploration sharply reduce the amount of crude
oil the U.S. now imports?
Short answer: Probably not.
Big discoveries from exploration? “I don’t think
it’s going to sharply reduce imports, because when those things
come on line, the reserves in the Lower 48 will have declined even
further,” according to Joseph P. Riva, who wrote a report on the
world’s oil outlook for the U.S. Congress in 1995.
Riva also has worked in the petroleum industry, the
Smithsonian Institution and the Congressional Research Service of
the Library of Congress. He also served as a senior research geologist
for the U.S. Geological Survey.
And not only is he a recognized expert on world oil
and a longtime member of AAPG, he’s authored more than 200 publications,
including several books and the fossil fuels sections of the Encyclopaedia
Riva’s reasons: As the numbers for U.S. production
decline, consumption growth and total imports have grown too large
to offer much hope.
Between 1986 and the end of 2001, annual U.S. crude
production fell by over 1.05 billion barrels. During the same period,
annual U.S. petroleum demand increased 20 percent, rising by more
than 1.29 billion barrels.
Since then, however, a business recession and September
11 have dampened demand growth.
But the better argument is that more -- and more
successful -- exploration will be required to prevent a future surge
Forget about REDUCING imports.
Looking ahead, the U.S. may need a Prudhoe Bay-size
discovery to replace Prudhoe Bay, and another Prudhoe Bay-size discovery
to keep oil import levels from rising.
-- DAVID BROWN