Almost every day I see a new story in the press about America magically becoming “energy independent.” In a story this morning I read where the US now produces 81% of it’s energy needs! I guess to this reporter and the DOE, energy is energy, no matter how it’s used. Good grief. It almost feels like journalists and government officials are trying to mislead an unsuspecting public.
For the millionth time, we don’t have an “energy” problem! We have oceans of natural gas for electricity generation, heating and cooking. Coal keeps the lights on across the country and we could be getting a LOT more electricity from nuclear power if we could just get government out of the way. And we’ve got renewables doing all they can to pull less than one-percent of the load. “Energy” is not the issue. Oil is what we need to be looking at, but even here it seems national journalists are blind to the numbers.
In this morning’s Bloomberg story I read where the United States may be able to produce seven million barrels of oil per day within three years, up 1.1 million barrels from what the nation’s oil and gas companies are producing today. While that is certainly great news, there’s another number to consider—18.5 million barrels. That’s the daily amount of oil the US uses today while our economy continues to sputter. When business picks up (if government officials will stop impeding a recovery) that number will quickly return to the pre-recession days of 20 million barrels a day. The best-case scenario then is that the US produces 7 million barrels while consuming 20. Does that sound like “independence” or “security” to you?
No, I’m not someone who thinks we need to produce all the oil we use. It’s not possible, nor is it necessary. However, we do need to consider the macro forces in play. Three quarters of the world is just now trying to industrialize. China is buying up oil supplies everywhere it can, including here and in Canada. People in India are buying the new $2,000 Tata Nano car as fast as they come of the assembly line. And the Middle East remains tumultuous and unpredictable. Israel and Iran seem destined to a showdown very soon. The big forces are squeezing the gap between supply and demand and a sudden disruption could easily send oil prices rocketing.
It is oil that fuels the modern world through transportation and the pressure to produce more oil for the global economy is not going to ease up (unless politicians drive the economy off a cliff and greatly reduce demand).
So when you hear journalists and “experts” talk about America becoming more “energy independent” don’t drink the Kool-Aid. The generic term “energy” used to define electricity, heating/cooling, fuel for food preparation and transportation is a highly misleading term. Fuel for transportation is by far the most important piece of the energy picture and it is by no means secure.