Robert Samuelson Thinks You Can Have Your Oil and Burn it Too

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Monday, 07 February 2011 05:17

Robert Samuelson wants the United States to increase domestic oil production to insulate itself from political unrest in the Middle East and other oil producing regions. There is a fundamental flaw in this logic. If the United States increases its production of oil at a time when it is still readily available from elsewhere in the world, then it would not be available if the United States was subsequently cut off from foreign sources of oil.

For example, the Energy Information Agency estimated that it would take 5-10 years to bring the Arctic Wildlife refuge to peak production of 1 million barrels a day. It could sustain this rate of output for roughly 10 years and then phase down to zero over the next 10-20 years. This means that if we had begun producing oil from the area in the early 90s, as many had advocated, the flow of oil from the region would already be passed its peak and on the way down.

The same logic applies to any domestic drilling. If anyone wants to increase U.S. energy independence in the event of a sudden cutoff of oil, they should be urging less domestic production, not more.