Almost every U.S. politician over the last 40 years pledged unwavering support to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and imported oil for reasons of national security, energy security, economic prosperity and environmental stewardship. With all this flag waving, talk of renewable, clean and sustainable energy, and furor over foreign oil, what has actually been achieved?
U.S. Liquid Fuels Consumption.
Total consumption of liquid fuels in 2010 grew 410 thousand bbl/d, or 2.2 percent, the highest rate of growth since 2004. In contrast, projected total U.S. liquid fuels consumption in 2011 falls by 170 thousand bbl/d (0.9 percent). Motor gasoline consumption accounts for almost all the projected decline for the year.
EIA expects total liquid fuels consumption to increase by 80 thousand bbl/d (0.4 percent) to 19.1 million bbl/d in 2012, down from the 170 thousand bbl/d increase projected in the previous Outlook because of the downward revisions to the U.S. economic growth forecast. Projected motor gasoline consumption rises by 40 thousand bbl/d (0.5 percent) as highway travel increases modestly, and distillate fuel consumption increases by 30 thousand bbl/d (0.9 percent) as growth in industrial activity and non-petroleum imports continues to slow as a result of continuing weak economic growth in 2012.
U.S. Liquid Fuels Supply and Imports.
Domestic crude oil production, which increased by 110 thousand bbl/d in 2010 to 5.5 million bbl/d, increases by a further 140 thousand bbl/d in 2011 and by 60 thousand bbl/d in 2012 (U.S. Crude Oil Production Chart), driven by increased oil-directed drilling activity, particularly in unconventional shale formations.
Liquid fuel net imports (including both crude oil and refined products) fell from 57 percent of total U.S. consumption in 2008 to 49 percent in 2010 because of rising domestic production and the decline in consumption during the economic downturn. EIA forecasts that liquid fuel net imports’ share of total consumption will decline further to 47 percent in both 2011 and 2012.
In simple terms, the report states:
- U.S. consumption of crude oil jumped in 2010, may decline slightly in 2011 and should rise again in 2012 for a total net increase of 1.7% from 2010.
- Domestic production of crude oil is projected to show an increase from 2010 to 2012.
- The percent contribution of imported oil to domestic consumption is projected to continue to decline through 2012.
However, a review of “U.S. Annual Crude Oil Net Imports,” shows a horse of a different color. In fact, the decline in crude oil imports is not really a decline at all. According to EIA data (see following graph):
- Oil imports increased 51% from 1992 to 2012 (projected).
- Oil imports shall remain relatively stable over the next few years.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
So if what we hear is not exactly true, then what is at play? The underpinnings of U.S.’s energy policy rests with The Department of Energy (“DoE”), which is mandated to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.
In a dramatic demonstration of the difference between actual and perceived, the DoE’s FY2012 Budget stipulated that the request of $29.5 billion “reflects increases for priority areas such as clean energy, nuclear security, and research and development. Savings are achieved through cuts to inefficient fossil energy programs.” True, allocations towards renewable energy projects increased to 3.9% of DoE’s entire budget from 2.2% in their FY2000 budget. But to think a paltry $1.16 billion in renewable energy expenditures in 2012 will have a major impact on achieving energy security and independence is unrealistic and downright nonsense.
If the DoE’ is nothing more than a political subterfuge then what programs and initiatives, if any, are driving changes to free us from oil based economy. The answer is obviously nothing. In reality it’s not a clean energy economy or freedom from foreign oil our lawmakers are actually striving for.
The final test of our government’s interest in these lofty goals will be in what Congress does with the issue of tax subsidies to the oil industry. Reflected in the International Center for Technology Assessment’s (“CTA”) 2003 Progress Report, “What Gasoline Really Costs Us,” and New York Times’ July 2010 article “As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies,” “oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses.”
CTA cites the reason “the federal government provides the oil industry with numerous tax breaks is to ensure that domestic companies can compete with international producers and that gasoline remains cheap for American consumers.” In addition to direct tax subsidies to the oil industry, other federal handouts and hidden costs lie in Government Program Subsidies; Protection Costs Involved in Oil Shipment and Motor Vehicle Services; Environmental, Health, and Social Costs of Gasoline Usage; and Other Important Externalities of Motor Vehicle Use. In total, these programs keep the price of petroleum artificially low, encourage its use and discourage use of other forms of clean energy.
In closing, after knowing the facts, it’s easy to deduce, that our elected officials on Capitol Hill are less than sincere in their efforts to adopt alternate sources of energy and reduce oil imports. If they are, then this is a supreme example of incompetency. If they are not inherently interested in getting us off oil, which seems to be the case, then deceit is the only remaining option. Additionally, with all the economic uncertainties in our economy, it would seem to be a no brainer and a win-win situation, to remove these subsidies.
Seems our trusted lawmakers are playing a most dangerous game.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author Dr. Barry Stevens, an accomplished business developer and entrepreneur in technology-driven enterprises. He is the founder of TBD America Inc., a technology business development group. In this role, he is responsible for leading technology driven enterprises through ideation, development and commercialization. To read his other discussions, please visit: http://barryonenergy.wordpress.com
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