Big Oil Shrinking Profits

Okay, okay, okay – it's not as bad as that headline says it is. First of all, even if we did only have 53.3 years of oil left, it'd represent a 1.1-percent improvement over last year's estimate, to 1.69 trillion barrels of oil left. But more importantly, we probably have a hell of a lot more oil left than that. Of course, a lot of it comes from shale, which means fracking, which isn't exactly great for the environment. So, it's not all roses here.

According to BP, the United States has 44.2 billion barrels in reserve, which is itself a 26-percent increase over previous estimates. As the years go on, though, that figure is still likely to increase, thanks to technologies like horizontal drilling that could unlock an additional 75 billion barrels of oil and natural gas from shale formations in the Permian Basin of west Texas, according USA Today, which cited estimates by Pioneer Natural Resources. The Permian Basin is the largest of three major shale oil operations, along with Bakken and Eagle Ford.

What's interesting, though, is that there's still a lot of shale oil we don't know about. Another resource company, EOG Resources, has already set up four horizontal rigs in the Rockies and estimates that there's even more black gold in them there hills. The other big play could be in the Gulf Coast.

Regardless of where the oil ends up, it's a fair bet that we have more than 53.3 years of oil left. While that's good news, here's hoping it doesn't halt the march towards fuel efficiency we've been seeing over the past several years.