Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council specifically argues
that because the United States has only 2% of the world’s proven oil resources developing those resources cannot possibly make a difference:
America consumes roughly one-quarter of the world’s oil, yet we are home to less than 2% of the globe’s proven oil reserves. So much for ‘drill, baby, drill.’ Even if we were to drill a hole everywhere in the country that has oil and drain every drop, we’d have enough to last us just about three years.
This is more than little misleading, though. You see, “proven reserves” isn’t a very good metric for telling us how much oil the United States has. Here’s how the Society of Petroleum Engineers
defines “proven reserves.”
Proved reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with reasonable certainty to be commercially recoverable, from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions, operating methods, and government regulations.
This definition eliminates a lot of known oil reserves from being calculated.
For instance, the government ban on developing oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge prevents those oil reserves from being counted as “proven.” The oil producers know the oil is there. They know they can drill for it and pump it. But because the government says they can’t, it’s not “proven.”