Transcript for Wrestling with Uncertainty, segment 14 of 16


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Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based on imperfect knowledge.

It sure is evident that Rodin recognized that life is steeped in uncertainty. After all, every day we make decisions based upon limited information. We deal with this uncertain world by basing our choices on the best information we can gather, and that's what the National Assessment reaches for, as clear a view as we can muster of a resource that we are unable to measure directly but for which we have a vast array of information. Let's look at some of the results.

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As you see, for most resource categories we provide a range of estimates representing different probabilities. These reflect the uncertainties inherent in the assessment process and act sort of like odds in betting. These ranges are substantial, but don't be distracted by their magnitude. Let's look at what they mean. Take conventional oil, for example. Here, the lower end, twenty-three point five billion barrels indicates what we think is almost a sure thing with a ninety-five percent chance that at least this amount could be added to our reserves. The high end is much less likely. It's nearly double the amount but with only a five percent chance that we'll produce this much. That's one in twenty. The middle number has a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate. Though the ultimate amount will almost certainly be different, it's more likely to approach this number than any other. No matter how accurate these numbers are, the amount of oil and gas we ultimately produce will depend on a variety of unpredictable factors that affect the petroleum industry. Nevertheless, the National Assessment provides a base line measure of what we can reasonably expect from domestic oil and gas resources.

But the assessment provides a great deal more than this in a form that's open to anyone - an energy analyst in Washington, a geologist in Houston, an environmentalist in California, or even a high school student in Kansas. Data on the history and possible future development for oil and gas on any land in the United States will be directly available on CD-ROM or the Internet. With this information any user will be able to investigate the impact of oil and gas activity on land use anywhere in the United States. While this will streamline the work of state and federal governments, it will also give private citizens access to information that has not been accessible previously. At the same time the wealth of detail on occurrence and composition of hydrocarbons to be found in any region will aid the independent oil and gas producers who are now developing our domestic energy supplies. The nineteen ninety-five National Assessment CD contains summaries of about five hundred sixty petroleum plays across the United States. It also provides documentation of the theoretical foundation and methodology of the assessment process and a bibliography of related topics.