06/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Statistically Speaking: Offshore Energy Exploitation

Crossposted with

Offshore energy has been in the news of late.

  1. Obama's opening up new coastal areas for drilling (see Grok post);

  2. A failed oil rig is spewing crude into the Gulf; and
  3. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is considering giving the green light on a wind farm off of Cape Cod, Mass.

Not sure what it all means? Maybe some statistics will help.

Energy Potentials, by the Numbers

Estimated amount of oil (in gallons) leaking daily into Gulf of Mexico from failed deepwater rig: 42,000

Number of gallons in a barrel of oil: 42

Maximum annual capacity of proposed Cape Wind farm (in megawatts): 420

That same capacity expressed in barrels of oil: almost 3 million

Potential energy per year from all planned offshore-wind projects on the East Coast (in megawatts): 1,700

That same potential expressed in barrels of oil: 11 million

Percentage of total East Coast wind energy that would be tapped by planned wind farms: 0.1

Estimated potential energy (in barrels of oil) from newly opened offshore drilling areas: 2-4 billion

Estimated number of years it will take to produce oil from new areas: ~10-15

Estimated year of peak oil production: 2030

Rough estimate of how much oil (in barrels) will be produced during peak production year: 7-18 million*

As you ponder, don't forget that comparing wind energy and oil is a little like comparing apples and oranges -- wind makes electricity, oil drives cars. But then again, I've heard that if you're at the beach, face offshore, and look really hard, you can sometimes make out the vague image of an electric vehicle on the horizon. Some say it's headed our way.

* Assumes 20 years to reach peak production. Value for peak production from newly opened areas derived from EIA estimate.