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A Scientist's Guide to Energy Independence: Oil

Daniel B. Botkin sheds light on how much oil there is, how much energy it provides, how big of a polluter it is and -- most importantly -- how long it will last.
This chapter is from the book
Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 A modern oil-drilling ocean platform. Platform Holly, a few miles off the coast from Santa Barbara California, was installed in 1966 and has produced oil since.

(Source: Linda Krop, Environmental Defense Center, Santa Barbara, CA)

Key facts

  • Worldwide, people use about 30 billion barrels of oil a year, which works out to 210 gallons per person. The worldwide total is expected to increase to 50 billion barrels a year—350 gallons per man, woman, and child—in the next few decades.
  • In 2005, the United States used 28% of all the oil consumed in the world.
  • In recent years, the United States consumed about 7.5 billion barrels of petroleum a year, dropping to 7.1 billion barrels 2008 (23% of the world's total consumption). More than 60% is imported; 17% of that is from the Persian Gulf.
  • Two-thirds of all transportation energy in the United States comes from petroleum—2.2 billion gallons a day: 55% of this for ground transport of people, almost 36% for ground transport of freight, and just under 10% for air transport of both people and freight.1
  • According to conventional estimates, at the current rate of use Americans will run out of oil in less than 50 years.
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