May 12, 2006 — -- With the price now up to $70 a barrel, and gas at $3 a gallon, how can that not be true? Isn't that why the price is high?
But what people don't know is that there's a vast supply of oil just 500 miles north in Canada.
"The tar sands of Alberta alone contain enough hydrocarbon to fuel the entire planet for over 100 years," according to Peter Huber, co-author of "The Bottomless Well."
What is he talking about? The Canadian tar sands are a Florida-size patch of sand and rock, mixed with oil. Lots of it.
Huber said people think we're running out of oil because we're running out of cheap oil, the kind that's found in the Middle East, which is already liquid, clean and ready to refine.
"It's very cheap to get that oil out of the ground. So, of course, that's where people go first," Huber said.
They can pull it out of the ground for five bucks a barrel.
It costs three times as much to get oil out of Canada's tar sands, because they have to add hot water to the sand to separate the oil. But now that oil is expensive and likely to stay that way, companies find it profitable to do this.
Clive Mather, CEO of Shell Canada, said the Earth's supply of hydrocarbons is almost infinite.
"Those are not running out. In fact, we have hardly started to develop them," he said.
When the price of oil is high, as it is today, it's profitable for companies to extract it from the tar sands. We may have to get used to paying more for gas, as Europeans do, because oil now comes from less accessible places. But the oil is out there.
"The planet contains huge amounts of buried hydrocarbons. The question is, can you get them out? At what price?" Huber said.
So why are we hearing all this stuff about running out? Huber said this sort of alarmist thinking is nothing new.
Twenty-nine years ago, President Carter said oil and gas supplies "are simply running out."
He said they would be gone in the next decade."People were saying that in 1880. They were saying it in 1910," Huber said.
But technological developments have helped us. "We get better at getting things out of the Earth, we keep improving," Huber said.
And that's why the predictions are wrong over and over again. New seismic imaging now lets people see through miles of water and rock, and by bouncing sound waves and watching the results in 3-D, they can find pockets of oil that no one knew were there.
Ships with their own drills travel farther from shore, and robots let them explore deeper beneath the ocean. Who knows what they'll discover tomorrow, but we know today, that in Canada's tar sands alone, the supplies may last 100 years.