So, for those of you that care about the environment and fighting against climate change, we have some good news and some very bad news. We’re optimists at IFLScience, so we’ll start with the bad news and end on a bit of hope.
As reported by Gizmodo, about $900 billion of untapped oil has been found beneath Texas. That’s about 20 billion barrels’ worth, the most voluminous deposit of its kind ever found in the contiguous United States. This may be great news for the pro-fossil fuel, EPA-destroying future Trump administration, but it’s dire news for the environment.
The report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) also explains that the oil, found in the highly productive West Texas Permian Basin, is accompanied by a vast reserve of natural gas, another notorious greenhouse gas source. All of this is recoverable and usable, and there’s nothing to stop the federal government from extracting it.
Yes, despite the uptick in renewable energy, the downtick in the global use of coal, and the strong support for nuclear power among many experts and climate change scientists, the world still heavily relies on oil. Above almost all else, our transportation relies on it, and it will do until a veritable revolution in energy production takes place.
As much as plenty of environmentalists would like to see this oil remain permanently underground, it will definitely be tapped. Obama has recently nixed plans for the Alberta-originating Keystone Pipeline, one which would have pumped plenty of oil into the US. Sadly, it seems as one door closes, another opens for this particular fossil fuel.
The USGS researchers note that “the Wolfcamp shale is being drilled for continuous oil using horizontal wells that are hydraulically fractured.” This refers to the controversial fracking process, which is increasingly being linked to localized, but not insignificant, earthquakes – particularly around Oklahoma as of late. This will likely be the method in which this new oil is brought to the surface.
Estimating the amount of oil left in the world is a tricky task, but one particularly conservative estimate suggests we have just 37 years until the planet runs out of accessible, drillable black gold. This is based on the idea that there are about 1.14 trillion barrels of oil left, with a rate of about 1,200 being used per second.
If all of these 20 billion barrels are now added to this alchemy, then that makes just 193 extra days of burning and consuming oil. It’s not even an entire year. So although this sounds like a heck of a lot of oil – and it is – relative to the entire known cache of oil, it won’t actually last that long.
Grimly, that’s the good news.