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Deron Lovaas’s Blog

Look to Canada for Proof That We Can't Drill Our Way Out

Deron Lovaas

Posted March 18, 2011 in Moving Beyond Oil

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No need to look far for good evidence the drill here, drill now, pay less gang is either ignorant or lying through their teeth. Canadian consumers, it turns out, have been facing similar pain at the pump.

Canada and the U.S. aren’t that different from each other in some respects. We have about the same amount of land. We have similar gross domestic products per capita ($47,400 for U.S., $39,600 for Canada as of 2010).

But we’re different in some ways too. For example, we have more than nine times as many people in the U.S., and on average we drive more. But if you want a real contrast, you need look no further than proved oil reserves and production vs. consumption figures. While we have 19.12 billion barrels as of January 2010, Canada has a staggering 175.2 billion barrels in proved reserves (this includes tar sands deposits, the production of which is an environmental nightmare as colleagues have written about here and here).

Canada and the U.S. are similar, on the other hand, in that we are both on the top-ten list of producers. We are number 3, they are number 6. More than a half-million wells are producing about 9 million barrels a day in the U.S. to keep us on the list (which as I’ve said before is more producing wells than all other nations combined). But we have to import more than half of what we consume, because we consume a whopping 19 million barrels daily.

And Canada? Canada produces about 3.3 million barrels a day, and consumes almost 2.2 million barrels daily. Canada is a big net-exporter, sending a lot of fuel, for example, into U.S. gas tanks.

But – and you can verify this thanks to the useful gasbuddy.com site – prices at Canadian pumps have tracked ours (setting aside a regular gap due mostly to higher Canadian fuel taxes) since 2007. And both have been pulled up and down and up again by a spiky, scary global crude oil price roller coaster.

Canada, with its vast resources and small population, can’t drill its way out of price runups because they’re shackled to a global oil marketplace. And we are too.

So the hype about drilling is wrong. The simple truth is that we must break our oil addiction. It’s the only way to pay less to OPEC and Big Oil.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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