Monday, June 30, 2008

Thought for the Day, Part I

I first posted this on Grouchy Old Cripple, as a comment on a piece about the price of oil and it's effects.  Several people noted that it seems like a good point.  So here we go again:

The folks who argue that drilling in ANWR won't do much for the cost of oil seem to miss a point.  If we get all our oil from the Mideast, it must be shipped here.  There are transportation costs, of which one of the biggest is the tanker itself.

How much fuel does an oil tanker use?  These are massive vessels, carrying massively large loads.  I'm pretty sure they move at a relatively slow pace (much slower than a destroyer, for instance).

So if a tanker has to haul these gigantic cargos halfway around the world, plodding along at a slow pace, then they must be using fuel at a prodigious rate.

Now here's a thought exercise:  Compare the amount of fuel used to move a supertanker halfway around the world to the amount of fuel used to move a similar amount of fuel down a pipeline from ANWR to, say, Juneau.

Then, let's contemplate how many tankers there are on the oceans of the world.  It probably takes at least 10 tanker loads to fuel the US for a single day.  Toss in all the other countries that use oil- China for instance- and consider that my S.W.A.G. (scientific wild-ass guess) of 10 loads would require a convoy of 10 tankers sailing every day.  If it takes (another S.W.A.G. here) 15 days for a tanker to travel from the Persian Gulf to the US, then that means there are 150 tankers enroute to the US on any given day.  And by extension, another 150 enroute back to the Gulf.

How much fuel do those hypothetical 300 tankers use?  And since I suspect it's a considerable amount, how does that impact worldwide demand for oil?  And since we know that the transportation costs are passed along to the consumer, how much are we paying to move the oil from Point A to Point B?  And do the figures cited for how many barrels of oil are used per day (BPD, for the initiated) include this number?

I have a hunch that the answers are somewhat uncomfortable.  I suspect that we're seeing a lot of oil getting burned just for the sake of transit, and that it does have some impact on oil costs.  But if it were to be quantified, and shown to the American people, then they might get uppity ideas about finding closer sources and more efficient ways to move oil.

Which might bring us back to ANWR.  And we can't have that.  God knows we can't do anything to cause discomfort for the mosquitos there.

Think about it.

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