Oil Consumption in North America


  1. Oil Consumption in North America
  2. U.S. Oil Production
  3. Oil Reserves
  4. Importing
  5. Misconceptions about Fossil Fuel Resources

Oil Consumption in North America

Currently, the United States consumes 19.6 million barrels per day, of oil, which is more than 25% of the world's total..  As a result, the U.S produces one fourth of the world's carbon emissions.  Despite predictions that the U.S. will exhaust it's supply of oil in as little as forty years, the demand is on the increase, and is predicted to continue increasing, because of the ever increasing population.  Increase in resource consumption is caused by three factors: population growth, new uses found for a resource, and increase in demand for a resource to increase living standards.  The rate of consumption for oil is increasing at a rate of about 2% yearly. 

U.S. Oil Production

The United States produced enough oil to supply it's own demand until 1970, (Youngquist paragraph 6). In that year the U.S. had to start importing oil to meet the demand.  The oil production for 2000 is expected to average 5.8 million barrels per day of crude oil.  The production for 1999 was 5.9 million barrels per day.  After the oil price collapse of 1985/1986, U.S. oil production declined dramatically.  Oil production in 2000 is down by 24% from 1985. However, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), oil production is expected to increase by 70,000 barrels per day, or 1.1% in 2001.  There is little to no chance of discovering any significant new onshore oil fields in the U.S.  There is a good possibility of discovering major deposits of oil offshore, but offshore drilling has been banned in many areas.  There are several good prospects far offshore that are open to exploration, but these are usually in very deep waters, and are extremely expensive to drill. The U.S. produces 12% of the world's oil, and and this production is concentrated onshore, and offshore along the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast, extending inland through west Texas, Oklahoma, and eastern Kansas. There are also significant oil fields in Alaska along the central North Slope.

Oil Reserves

According to the EIA, the United States has 21 billion barrels of proved oil reserves as of January 1, 2000.  The U.S. uses about 6.6 billion barrels per year.  That is only enough oil to last the U.S. about three and a half years without importing oil from other countries.  84% of the reserves are concentrated in four states.  Texas has 25%, both onshore, and offshore.  Alaska has 24%, California has 21%, and Louisiana has 14% onshore, and offshore.  Since 1990, U.S. oil reserves have dropped about 20%.  New oil discoveries made in 1999 were made almost entirely in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska. (321 million barrels).  All other discoveries were extensions of existing oil fields, or new reservoirs discovered in old fields. (404 million barrels).


The demand for oil in the United States is increasing slightly every year but domestic oil production is decreasing.  The U.S. is expected to consume an average of 19.6 million barrels per day of oil in 2000.  It is estimated that the U.S. imported 10.9 million barrels per day of oil in the first eight months of 2000, (E.I.A. Paragraph 9).  At this rate, the U.S. is currently importing about 57% of the oil that is being consumed.  The main suppliers of oil to the U.S. at this time are; Canada (1.68 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.49 million barrels per day), Venezuela (1.46 million barrels per day), and Mexico (1.35 million barrels per day).  The U.S. has energy sanctions against Iran, Iraq, and Libya, all major oil producers, that prohibit U.S. companies from doing business with them.

Misconceptions about Fossil Fuel Resources

With few exceptions, 16,000 feet is the maximum depth at which oil is found.  Below that depth, only gas exists, because of the temperature of the earth.  The United States has large areas of oil shale deposits, which are sometimes misconstrued as being a readily available resource. However, oil shale deposits are not the same thing as conventional oil fields.  There are no effective methods for extracting crude oil, from oil shale.  A variety of processes have been tried, and all have failed.  Oilsands, which is another kind of oil deposit, are found in large quantities in Canada.  It has been estimated that the oilsands contain 1.7 trillion barrels of oil, but this oil cannot be recovered by standard methods of well drilling, and has to be strip mined.  After it is dug up, the oil is removed by a water flotation process.  Then, the waste sand has to be safely disposed.  The strip mining process now being used takes the energy equivalent of two barrels of oil to produce one barrel.  In other words, the price to produce it is double the price for which it can be sold.  Another problem with the oilsands, is that much of it is too deep to be reached by strip mining.  Other methods of removing the deeper oil are being experimented with, but they are all very costly.  Canada's oilsands will probably not be produced in large amounts until the world's supply of conventional oil is nearly depleted.


If the natural resources of the world continue to be exploited at such a staggering rate, there will be nothing left to exploit. Conservation strategies have been implemented, especially at times when an energy shortage has occurred, but these strategies are all but forgotten when the shortage passes.  Unfortunately, conserving resources at this point will only temporarily postpone the inevitable, which is total energy resource exhaustion. Unless the lifestyles, and transportation habits, of the ever-increasing population that demand more, and more resources are dramatically changed, or new energy sources are discovered, conserving won't save us.

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     Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Wheeler, Jesse H. Jr., and Trenton J. Kostbade.
     World Regional Geography

 GeoDestinies. Myths and Realities of Mineral Resources. Youngquist, Walter Ph.D..
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 Energy Information Administration, (EIA).

 Oil & Gas Journal Online - petroleum, energy news.

Jason J. Churchill  October 25, 2000
Revised and submited November 13, 2000