- Key facts
- It's a stretch, but imagine you're an Eskimo living 1,500 years ago
- Where does petroleum come from?
- How much energy does petroleum provide?
- How much petroleum is there, and how long will it last?
- Geography is against us
- Where might new oil reserves be found?
- Two unconventional sources of oil: oil shales and tar sands
- Growing worldwide competition for a dwindling resource
- If supplies are dwindling, why watch petroleum go up in smoke?
- Environmental effects of petroleum
- Petroleum exploration versus conservation of endangered species
- The bottom line
Where might new oil reserves be found?
Recent discoveries of oil have been primarily in the Middle East, Venezuela, and Kazakhstan.18 Ironically, global warming may change this, since less ice in the Arctic may mean more opportunities for oil exploration where it was difficult before. Also, while at present drilling for oil in Arctic waters is mostly limited to a depth of 300 feet and in some cases 2,000 feet, new ships will make it possible to drill for oil in water 12,000 feet deep.19 One estimate suggests that 400 billion barrels of oil may be found in the Arctic oceans.20
Although this is a lot of petroleum, at current rates of use it would add only eight years to the time we have before the world runs out of oil.21 And there's a potential downside: More global warming provides more sources of oil—for example in the Arctic, which produces more greenhouse gases, which lead to more global warming.22 Then, too, there is already plenty of concern about oil spills and their effects on ocean ecosystems, sea and shore birds, and fisheries, and the ability to drill much deeper in a much larger area increases the risk of drilling-caused spills.