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No, there isn’t enough recoverable crude oil in the U.S. to last over 400 years

A viral copy-and-paste chain message falsely claims there is enough recoverable crude oil in the U.S. to supply future demand for more than 400 years.

President Joe Biden recently called on U.S. oil refiners to produce more gasoline and diesel, saying their profits have tripled during a time of war between Russia and Ukraine as many Americans struggle with record-high prices at the pump. On June 21, the average gas price in the U.S. was nearly $5 a gallon, according to AAA data

A copy-and-paste chain message claiming to tell the “truth about gas prices” began to spread rapidly on Facebook and Twitter in mid-June. VERIFY viewer Lauren and several others asked VERIFY whether the following claim, which was included in the chain message, was really true: 

“There is enough recoverable crude oil within the continental US to supply current and projected future demand for 400+ years, and that's just the oil we know about. It doesn't account for future discoveries. That's a fact…”

THE QUESTION

Is there enough recoverable crude oil in the U.S. to supply the country for 400 years?

THE SOURCES 

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, there is not enough recoverable crude oil in the U.S. to supply the country for 400 years. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The term “technically recoverable” refers to the amount of oil and/or gas that is in the ground that can be produced domestically using currently available technology and industry practices without regard to cost, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS estimates there are 373.1 billion barrels of technically recoverable reserves of crude oil in the United States. That number accounts for all of the oil the U.S. could use if it extracted every drop out of the ground. A U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) spokesperson says the USGS estimate is not enough recoverable crude oil to supply the U.S. for the next 400 years.

Andrew Lipow, an oil and gas expert based in Houston, agrees.

“Based on what we know, the answer is clearly incorrect,” he said.   

In 2021, EIA data show the U.S. consumed an average of about 19.78 million barrels of petroleum per day, or about 7.22 billion barrels of petroleum overall. Based on current crude oil consumption levels, the estimated 373.1 billion barrels of technically recoverable reserves “would last about 50 years,” the EIA spokesperson told VERIFY. 

If the U.S. were to consume nearly 7.22 billion barrels of petroleum per year for the next 400 years, the country would need more than 2.9 trillion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves — far more than the 373.1 billion barrels it has currently.

“Of course, there are many other factors one could consider, such as how oil consumption would change over the next 400 years, how technology for oil extraction will advance, how USGS estimates could change, and whether an oil company would make a profit extracting that oil, etc.,” the EIA spokesperson said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

   

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