U.S. Oil Dependence Falling Dramatically


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The energy news of late has been stunning. Domestic oil output is growing so quickly that the U.S. could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer. As a result, U.S.  dependence on oil is expected to fall significantly  by the end of the decade. Among the reasons is the growth in ‘fracking.’

Production of domestic oil and natural gas has surged in recent years as hydraulic fracturing  aka ‘fracking’ and horizontal drilling have opened new fields and allowed renewed production from formations that had seemed depleted.

Some experts say the oil and gas drilling boom, which already supports 1.7 million jobs, will lead to the creation of 1.3 million jobs across the U.S. economy by the end of the decade.

According to the Associated Press, “Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

Some forecasters believe the U.S. will produce 20 million or more barrels per day by 2020 becoming the world’s top producer.

At the present time, the Saudis and the Russians have been the world ‘s top producers.

Americans use 18.7 million barrels per day. But thanks to the growth in domestic production and the improving fuel efficiency of the nation's cars and trucks, imports could fall by half by the end of the decade.

However, that does not mean we will have cheaper gas prices at the pump.. Prices are expected to remain high due to the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

But benefits from the economy will be realized. “Increased drilling is driving economic growth in states such as North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana and Texas,” says the Associated Press.

“Businesses that serve the oil industry, such as steel companies that supply drilling pipe and railroads that transport oil, aren't the only ones benefiting. Home builders, auto dealers and retailers in energy-producing states are also getting a lift.”

The New York Times reported recently the increase in oil production, plus new policies to improve car energy efficiency, will have long term benefits. Also, a recent report said global energy demand will grow significantly because of the needs of China, India and the Middle East.

It is said the American-mined coal, facing declining demand in its home market, is a desirable export to Europe and China.

The change has been caused by the “unlocking of new reserves of oil and gas found in shale rock. The widespread adoption of techniques like hydraulic fracturing (fracking)  and horizontal drilling has made those reserves much more accessible.

What are the benefits to energy dependence? “You may be somewhat less vulnerable to price shocks and the U.S. may be slightly more protected, but it doesn’t give you the energy independence some people claim,” one expert told The New York Times.

Other factors cited that will impact future energy market  is the recovery  of the Iraqi oil industry, which would provide new supply, and Germany and Japan abandoning nuclear energy.

Climate change, however, is of a great concern.  Safe emissions control may be in jeopardy in this new environment 

Although hydraulic fracturing or fracking  has played an important part in the growth of the energy supply, it  has raised environmental concerns and is challenging the adequacy of current governmental  rules. These environmental  concerns have included ground water contamination, risks to air quality, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and  mishandling of waste.

President Obama has strongly endorsed the new production as a boon to the economy and energy security. He has eased government regulation of oil operations.

Originally, the U.S Interior Department wanted companies to disclose the chemicals they intend to use in drilling before starting a well.  According to The New York Times, “...the  industry objected, saying that the additional paperwork would slow the permitting process and potentially jeopardize trade secrets. The government then agreed to allow companies to reveal the contents of drilling fluids after the operation had been completed.”

Interior Department officials said that having a record would allow scientists to trace any future contamination and that it did not matter whether the fluids were disclosed before or after drilling.

President Obama has ordered the creation of an interagency task force to streamline federal regulation of natural gas drilling, and the Environmental Protection Agency issued revised air quality rules for oil and gas wells that gave drillers extra time to comply and lowered their costs. Industry officials praised both moves.

Forbes.com reports, “The draft rule affects drilling operations on the 700 million acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, as well as 56 million acres of Indian lands. The Interior Department estimates that 90 percent of the 3,400 wells drilled each year on public and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing…”

Visit your local library for more resources on this topic.

Energy for Future Presidents: The Science behind the Headlines
Richard A. Muller, (2012).
In a follow-up to his best-selling Physics for Future Presidents (2009), Berkeley physics professor Muller reprises the device of addressing U.S. presidents current and future directly, in this case delivering an armload of facts about energy. The idea here is to present the strictly legitimate science behind the headlines and hyperbole spun by journalists and various power-scheme promoters so politicians can craft rationally based energy policies. Muller begins with a reality check of recent environmental disasters ... then addresses the pluses and minuses of both alternative and conventional energy, from solar power to natural gas, with many surprising insights. — Excerpt of review by Carl Hays first published July, 2012 (Booklist).


Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

José Goldemberg,(2012).
Explaining basic facts about humanity’s consumption of energy, this primer appears in a question-and-answer format. Posed by a prominent Brazilian scientist, the 100-plus questions range from definitions of energy terms (“What is work?”) to thumbnail answers about energy policies (“What is ‘cap-and-trade’?”). Equipping readers with a basic vocabulary about energy, Goldemberg’s format will be rudimentary for a seasoned student, but all students must start somewhere. Demonstrating in his answers the trade-offs in efficiency and environmental safety that exist among different modes of energy production, Goldemberg proves to be an evenhanded emcee for this introduction.
— Excerpt of review by Gilbert Taylor first published June 1, 2012 (Booklist).

Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism
Ozzie Zehner, (2012).
Enthusiastic supporters of green energy technologies like wind and solar often peddle them as pristine substitutes for fossil fuels and ideal solutions to stem global warming. For environmental and philanthropic consultant Zehner, however, almost all alternative power schemes have serious downsides, and their advocates in industry and politics need to face some unsettling facts before investing further time and money.  What set Zehner’s work apart from the glut of other environment-related titles are his fresh ideas and superlatively engaging prose.
— Excerpt of review by Carl Hays first published May 15, 2012 (Booklist Online).

The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse
David Owen, (2012).
After Green Metropolis (2009), a revelatory exposition of why urban life is “green,” Owen—brisk, funny, elucidating, and blunt—illuminates a wide spectrum of environmental misperceptions in this even more paradox-laden inquiry. An enthusiastic wrangler of facts, Owen presents disconcerting statistics.  He calls us out on our tendency to delude ourselves about easy solutions to complicated problems and declares that our failure to do what needs to be done to reduce fossil-fuel consumption is the result of reluctance, not ignorance. —  Excerpt of review by Donna Seaman first published February 15, 2012 (Booklist).

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
Daniel Yergin, (2011).
The quest for energy is quite simply the quest for power, argues energy expert Yergin. Unanticipated events—manmade and natural, from the coup in Egypt whose ripples threaten to destabilize oil production in the Middle East to the earthquakes that destabilized Japan’s nuclear energy plants—can pivot the world’s economy as more and more emerging nations demand more energy. Yergin, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Prize (1991), begins by detailing how the energy system of oil, gas, and electrical power has fueled the economic growth of the modern world. He goes on to provide a close examination of the concerns about the environment, terrorism, geopolitics, and economics that will affect changes in energy sources.  A comprehensive, accessible look at energy.— Excerpt of review by Vanessa Bush first published September 15, 2011 (Booklist).




Oil pump jack by M1kha


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