THE UNMINED SUPPLY OF PETROLEUM IN THE UNITED STATES
PRODUCTION records show that the United States oil fields have produced approximately 4,600,000,000 bbl. since 1858, the present rate of annual production being approximately 350,000,000 bbl. On the other hand, the oil remaining available in the ground is estimated by the oil geologists of the U. S. Geological Survey at 6,740,000,000 bbl., about half of which belongs to the heavier grades. This estimate is distinctly conservative, but the amount eventually recovered should not very greatly exceed it. With an annual consumption now reaching 400,000,000 bbl., the remaining oil would not last many years if it could be discovered and mined as fast as required. However, this cannot be done; many pools will not be located within twenty years, and the curve of waning oil production will probably continue for as long as seventy-five years.
The danger to the country's welfare and prosperity lies in the rapidly increasing consumption without restriction of use, promising to exceed one-half billion barrels yearly within a few years, and in the fact that, with most vigorous efforts, we are able only slightly to increase production, which almost certainly will pass its peak and enter the period of decline at an early date, probably within five and possibly within two years. Meanwhile, storage supplies are being exhausted and oil is imported in increasing amounts to meet requirements. Present monthly imports averaging about 4,000,000 bbl. must be expanded to enormous volume when our domestic production declines, unless the now soaring consumption is correspondingly reduced, which is not to be thought of. American oil companies must protect the future by acquiring great and widespread foreign oil concessions.
Oil in vast amounts can be artificially made from the great oil-shale deposits of the West, but the processes and prices necessary to commercial success remain to be determined, and the task of building up an oil-shale industry sufficient to meet a considerable part of the demand is enormous, requiring several years.