Here are some back of the envelope calculations about alternative energy.
1. Biodiesel: Canola (rapeseed) yields about 122 gallons of oil per acre. If the USA planted all of its arable land, 407 million acres, with canola, we could produce 188 billion liters of oil per year. The bad news, we consume 1207 billion liters of petroleum per year. Oil seeds can never solve our energy problem, and ethanol from corn is even worse.
2. ANWR: USGS suggests there is likely 10.4 billion barrels of oil in ANWR and the local undersea shelf. The USA consumes 7.6 billion barrels per year. We should drill in ANWR, but it’s not going to have a huge impact on our energy problem.
3. Nuclear: The Department of Energy estimates US Uranium reserves at 1155 million pounds (yellow cake) at $50 per pound mining and refining cost or less. Our 103 nuclear power plants consume about 40 million pounds per year of this fuel. That is 29 year supply of fuel, plus reserves. Unless we invest massively and quickly in breeder reactors, we will run out of cheap nuclear fuel before we run out of cheap petroleum.
4. Solar power: With 10% efficiency, one can optimistically expect an average of 30 watts per day per meter square from conventional photovoltaic panels. To supply the US average energy usage of 3.3 terawatts, we would need 110,000 square kilometers of solar panels, about 1.2 percent of the total land area of the USA. Anyone want to estimate the cost?