Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2010

Five Alternatives that Make More Sense than Offshore Oil

Whitney Leonard

November 2009

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Proponents of offshore oil drilling ignore reality: offshore oil reserves are too small to significantly impact world oil prices or U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Offshore oil, which necessitates costly and environmentally dangerous drilling, would produce about 514 million barrels annually by 2030—less than 1 percent of global oil production. This paper identifies five alternatives to offshore oil for the transportation sector that would decrease energy demand, limit U.S. dependence on foreign oil, cut costs for consumers, and reduce carbon emissions. The transportation sector accounts for nearly three quarters of all petroleum use in the United States and is responsible for 42 percent of carbon emissions.