September 09, 2006

Oil Execs Wouldn't Lie To Us, Would They?

So much for peak oil, huh? Mark Morrison of Businessweek thinks we no longer need to worry about the oil supply running out, because Chevron and other companies just found a "mammoth" oil field deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico. And in the future, Morrison says, energy companies will find even more oil deposits deep beneath the ocean floor, and we'll be able to dart around in our SUVs forever. Of course, actually burning all those newfound hydrocarbons might destroy the planet, but other than that, we're totally fine!

Unless, of course, Chevron's wrong. Randy Kirk has written an interesting Energy Bulletin memo wondering if the Gulf of Mexico "discovery" is just hype. Curiously, the range given for the Gulf discovery is between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels, yet the new field "is comprised of no single field of more than 300 million barrels. An entire area of as much as 15 billion barrels with no 'giant' over 1 Bn bar oil field is unusual."

So maybe Chevron's exaggerating things. But why oh why would they do that? Well, in just a few weeks, the Senate is going to vote on whether to lift a 25-year ban on most offshore drilling. It's the usual story: Environmentalists have concerns about opening up the coasts to drilling, but oil companies stand to make a lot of money if the Senate lifts the moratorium. And the vote's close right now. The "discovery" of a gargantuan field off the coast of Mexico could probably sway a few wavering politicians. Suspicious, no? Kirk sees a rather... interesting parallel:
[T]he [Chevron] announcement is reminiscent of the Mexican "huge oil discovery" announced last year, of a possible 10 billion barrels, which was quietly revised this year to around 43 million barrels, a downward revision of 99.57%. This similar "discovery" was made in Mexico last year a few months before the Mexican parliament was to vote on Pemex (state oil co)'s budget and rights to expand drilling.
It's almost like the oil industry's version of a well-timed terror alert...
-- Brad Plumer 1:30 PM || ||