Clean Energy: 9 Million More Barrels Each Day than Drilling

Clean Energy vs. Drilling

The more I look, the more oil savings I find. My latest investigation continues to cast serious doubt on the advice of drilling advocates by turning up 11 times more oil in 2030 than we could extract from the Arctic Refuge and protected areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). It turns out that we don’t have to look far for more oil; we must simply improve the way we use energy today. 

Over the next two decades, we could save nearly 10 million of barrels of oil each day (mbd) by seeking out efficiency opportunities throughout our economy. For comparison, the U.S. currently imports about 10 mbd. Better cars, buildings, communities, and fuels would save about 9 million more barrels each day than we could get from drilling. Previously, I compared how setting cost-effective fuel economy standards for passenger cars produced before 2015 would save more oil than the Department of Energy (DOE) projects would come from OCS drilling. The gap between savings (which put money in your pocket) and new supply (which you would have to buy at the current price of oil) only grows when you consider other forms of clean energy such as electricity for powering cars, sustainably-grown biofuels, mass transit, and efficiency measures for heavy trucks, air travel and oil-heated buildings. In fact the sheer volume of possible savings suggests that before we go searching for more oil, we should ensure that our economy can use it efficiently.  

Below is a list of realistic measures that can produce these savings (also available in .pdf here):

Saving 10 Million Barrels of Oil Per Day in 2030

Measure Description
Higher Fuel Economy for New Cars and Light-Duty Trucks Implement fuel economy standards as authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007), using realistic assumptions to determine feasibility. Continue to increase fuel economy so that new cars and light trucks achieve a fleetwide average of at least 42 miles per gallon in 2020 and at least 55 mpg by 2030.
Improved Fuel Economy of On-road Vehicle Fleet Improve fuel economy of on-road fleet of cars and light trucks by 4 percent through low rolling resistance tires, tire inflation, and fuel-efficient motor oil.
Improved Fuel Economy for New and On-road Heavy-duty Trucks Implement fuel economy standards as authorized by EISA 2007 to increase fuel economy of new medium- and heavy-duty trucks by at least 40 percent by 2030. Retrofit tractor trailer stock with fuel-efficient EPA SmartWay technologies such as trailer aerodynamic improvements, single-wide tires, and idling reduction equipment by 2014.
Building Efficiency Retrofit oil-heated homes and commercial buildings to cut fuel consumption by 50 percent.
Advanced Biofuels Produce 47 billion gallons of sustainable ethanol and 2 billion gallons of renewable diesel per year by 2030.
Air Travel Improvements Improve fuel consumption per revenue mile by 1 percent per year from 2009-2012, then at least maintain efficiency levels.
Smart Growth and Transit Keep per capita vehicle miles traveled at today’s levels through smart community planning and development and investments in public transit. Maintaining per capita mileage results in a 21 percent reduction from 2030 forecasts.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars Promote plug-in hybrid electric vehicles so that 8 percent of vehicle miles traveled are powered by electricity by 2030.


Drilling will never be an answer because the costs outweigh the benefits. Drilling spoils and pollutes our pristine landscapes and beaches. It disrupts sensitive ecosystems, releases toxins and brings carbon from deep in the earth into the atmosphere as heat-trapping global warming pollution. And it does this while offering basically zero financial advantage to consumers. In their analysis, DOE, for instance, doesn’t even bother quantifying the benefits of offshore drilling. Instead, DOE finds that the price impacts are “insignificant.”  

By contrast, clean energy’s advantages are huge. Clean energy avoids oil consumption and all of its baggage like pollution, climate change, price volatility and dependency. Furthermore, clean energy saves you money because you buy less oil than now. Clean energy requires the manufacturing of new technologies, which can jumpstart flagging industries at home. And because the clean energy measures that we’ve identified are cost-effective, their use results in a net economic benefit to consumers and society. Drilling simply doesn’t.