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U.S. Oil Reserves Higher Than Previously Thought

According to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment, two formations in the central United States hold three times the amount of natural gas and two times the amount of oil than the federal government previously estimated. Concentrated in the Dakotas and Montana, the Bakken and Three Forks formations are expected to hold 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Three Forks formation, which alone contains 3.73 billion barrels of oil, was not included in the last USGS assessment in 2008—helping to explain the large jump.

“These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The same week, Jewell announced the U.S. Department of Interior will release revised, draft rules regulating hydraulic fracturing operations that have increasingly recovered tough-to-reach fossil fuel sources—particularly in North Dakota. The rules would only apply to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling on public lands and would establish new requirements for disclosure of chemicals and well integrity. The draft is expected in the coming weeks.

Senate Votes on Clean Energy

A House committee in North Carolina’s state legislature last week voted against a bill to repeal the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). However, a Senate Committee this week pushed through the bill, which would keep the mandate at 3 percent, but eliminate it later on.

The REPS enacted by a 2007 North Carolina law had no expiration and, in addition to the overall renewable requirements, uniquely required utilities to get 0.07 percent of their electricity from hog waste now and 0.20 percent by 2018. So far, little of the set-aside for hog waste-derived energy has been met. A new study by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative provides a first step toward an informed strategy to increase swine gas energy production. Using a comparative modeling analysis considering individual and centralized approaches, the report finds that injecting biogas collected from an optimized network of farms into the natural gas pipeline could be a cost-effective approach to meeting state REPS.

As Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise, International Climate Negotiations Begin

As early as this month, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are expected to reach a new milestone, rising above 400 parts per million for a sustained period of time. Carbon dioxide levels in excess of 400 parts per million have already been recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, but they tend to fluctuate hourly. The milestone is significant because it illustrates how dramatically humans have altered the atmosphere in a few generations, says Mother Nature Network. In 1988, atmospheric carbon dioxide was about 350 parts per million.

“I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “At this pace we’ll hit a 450 ppm within a few decades. Each year, the concentration of CO2 at Mauna Loa rises and falls in a sawtooth fashion, with the next year higher than the year before. The peak of the sawtooth typically comes in May. If the CO2 levels don’t top 400 ppm in May 2013, they almost certainly will next year.”

The Washington Post looks at President Obama’s record on climate and environment so far. In Bonn, groups gathered for a week-long meeting to focus on the “scope, design and structure” of the 2015 climate agreement that would take effect in 2020. This agreement would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 to limit pollution.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.


  1. Lorrin McKay
    October 22, 2013, 8:46 am

    This is such an uninformed comment..Oil consumption is not 7 BBY, more like 5.5…Reneable energy makes up less than 5 percent of our energy use, so mif we double that by 2020, Obamas’ prediction, we are at ten percent. Not enough to be bragging about. Facts: More oil than we are being told we have, reneables energy more expensive than oil/gas…upfont polution from reneable energy at least as high as oil/gas..the RE technology is not even close to being ready to replace oil/gas…so stop spreading false information, and share credible data….

  2. FactsAreFun
    United States
    May 5, 2013, 11:03 pm

    Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, since the annual US oil consumption is on the order of about 7 billion barrels, the entire Bakken formation contains recoverable oil for about one year (it will, of course, take decades to produce all of it, and therefor can’t account for more than a small fraction of the US demand at any given time).

    At an oil price of roughly $100 per barrel, this oil will cost the US consumer roughly $700 billion. And since oil prices are likely to rise further over time, it will probably come at an even higher cost.

    A rational person here will fail to see the “good” news… on one hand it is not enough oil to make a realistic dent into the nation’s long term energy problems, on the other hand it is an enormously expensive resource that does little economic good, except, of course, to those who are drilling for it.

    What the US economy needs is ubiquitous cheap renewable energy, not slightly more expensive oil.