Letter to the Editor

Plenty of oil, but at a high price

Friday, December 3, 2004

To the editor:

The good news is we're not running out of oil. We're only running out of easy oil that costs OPEC countries maybe $3 a barrel to produce. According to Forbes magazine, the Department of Energy estimates there is enough hard-to-reach oil and natural gas to meet our growing demands for another 170 years. But it's going to cost a fortune to produce. The fact that the oil titans are already investing billions to reach it presumably means we can expect high pump prices indefinitely.

Canada is home to one of the largest known unconventional reserves. Chevron/Texaco believes the Alberta tar sands contain reserves greater than the world's remaining supply of conventional crude, according to Forbes. But this oil has to be processed, not drilled, and costs $10 a barrel to produce.

Venezuela, the magazine reports, has 78 billion barrels of proven reserves of conventional oil and 280 billion barrels of heavy oil that must be blended, an even more expensive process.

The oil giants are convinced huge deposits remain undiscovered in Russia and its onetime republics, all largely unexplored for oil, but have found dealing with them tricky and expensive.

The Gulf of Mexico contains substantial reserves, but producers must drill through 30,000 feet of rock and solid sedimentary sand to reach them. There are also apparently large reserves of hard-to-reach oil off the shores of Newfoundland and West Africa.

In short, at the right prices there's a lot of oil left.

W.K. ZELLMER, Cape Girardeau