Recent news that Newt Gingrich is considering a White House bid has come concurrent with the sharp rise in U.S. gas prices. In his 2008 energy book, “Drill here; drill now”, Newt Gingrich offers his plan which suggests that we have enough American oil for energy independence.
He proposed aggressive oil drilling off our east and west coasts; the same in Alaska’s ANWR; and a major effort to develop the so-called oil shale in the Green River Basin in Colorado and Utah.
Newt’s ignorance of oil geology is evident from the book’s title and his eagerness to drill. There is a reason oil companies are called exploration and production companies (E & Ps) with the exploration part first. We have little knowledge of the under sea structures off our east and west coasts or on Alaska’s north coast. You don’t take a $400,000/day drill ship out to sea and start randomly poking holes in the ocean floor without extensive seismic analysis.
We have better data in the Gulf of Mexico, but its major untapped deposits are under salt at great depth, involving high costs and now obvious environmental risks. Efforts to produce the Green River oil shale have been a multi-billon dollar, 40-year failure to produce any oil. For one thing the deposit isn’t oil; it’s a low grade pre-oil, so its production requires massive dollars, energy, and water with substantial risk to a fragile environment.
The Bakken Field in the Williston Basin in the Dakotas and Montana is a substantial resource. But it requires expensive horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing to get at oil which is bound up in shale.
The U.S. has about 4-5 percent of the world’s economically recoverable oil reserves despite energy dreams from one of our newest presidential candidates.
ROLF WESTGARD is a resident of Deerwood and St. Paul, a professional member, Geological Society of America and a member of the Brainerd Dispatch advisory board.