New U.S. oil field discoveries hits 12-year low

What others say

Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Some interesting pieces of information came out Tuesday from the Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy. Most notably and timely was the statement that the number of new oil field discoveries in this country has fallen to its lowest level in 12 years.

Worse, the low number for 2004 meant a substantial gap between crude production and the addition of new proven reserves. For the total amount of oil produced last year, only 71 percent was offset by new reserves, and while that's an improvement over the prior year, it's still well off the pace of 1999 to 2002, when the addition of new reserves exceeded crude oil production.

The EIA also reported that Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and California — three of the nation's four largest areas of crude reserves, with Texas being the fourth — showed declines in 2004. Alaska's proven oil reserves dropped by 3 percent, while national proven reserves fell by 2 percent.

For anyone who finds reading about the oil industry a chore, the chart on page 13 of the summary of the EIA's 2004 report of the nation's oil and natural gas reserves should easily get across the message that more exploration and production is needed in Alaska. The report, released Tuesday, depicts Lower 48 onshore and offshore oil reserves each as a horizontal line that rises and falls a couple of times as the chart progresses from 1994 to 2004. The line shows reserves were being added at various points during that period.

The line for Alaska? The chart shows it as a constant decline, with no peaks and valleys, flatter than a distant view of the Arctic horizon.

This is all information worth noting as the noise begins to escalate over the coming action in Congress to open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Reasonable people aren't suggesting that oil from ANWR is the only solution the shortcomings in the nation's energy policy, but they are saying that ANWR oil can be a part of a package that includes reviving the nuclear power industry, finding more natural gas and giving real attention to energy conservation and the furthering of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Congress will reportedly be moving to the question of ANWR later this month, assuming the schedule isn't disrupted much by the confirmation hearings for the second Supreme Court nominee. Reports like those this week from the Energy Information Administration, and comments from a public now desiring a greater level of domestic energy production, can't be ignored in the debate about the refuge's oil.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Oct. 5

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