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Where Has Energy Independence Gone?

April 15, 2012

The good news, the U.S. is reducing its consumption of foreign oil. The bad news, the Titanic may make it to port before the U.S. becomes truly energy independent. This is meant not to disrespect the 1,514 who died sailing in the Titanic 100 years to the day.

November 7, 1973 is a day that should live in infamy. On this day, President Richard M. Nixon announced “Project Independence,” a sweeping initiative to achieve energy self-sufficiency for the United States by 1980.(1)

“The idea of energy independence was first conceived in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The embargo abruptly cut-off U.S. oil imports from the Middle East causing severe fuel shortages and gas rationing. Oil prices tripled, the price of gasoline quadrupled and a new American vulnerability was exposed — America’s dependence on imported oil as a primary source of energy proved to be a weakness that could be exploited to influence or subvert U.S. foreign policy; threatening to disrupt the economy and eventually impoverish the USA by transferring billions of dollars to foreign national treasuries in exchange for oil.”(2)

Fast track to 2012, “the chart below shows both the consumption and the domestic supply of liquid fuels in the U.S. in millions of barrels per day. The difference between these amounts, the area shaded in yellow, indicates the amount of liquid fuel the U.S. imports to make up the difference between demand and domestic supply. By 2035, the U.S. Energy Information Agency expects the U.S. will only need to import 36 percent of its oil.”(3)

 Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency

Credit: Melanie Taube/NPR

The following chart from O&G Next Generation, shows the source of oil imports as of June 2009,(4) Though, somewhat dated, the U.S. is shown to import less than 15 percent from the Gulf, oil imports are live and healthy.

So what got us into this grandiose oxymoron in the first place anyway? “Prior to 1950 the U.S. had absolute energy independence. In 1950 the USA was producing over 50 percent of the world’s oil, enough for all of its own needs with plenty left over for exports. But the post-World War II U.S. economic boom eventually created demand for more oil than U.S. wells could produce.

Between 1950 and 1973 (the year of the embargo) U.S. oil imports had grown from near zero to about 32 percent of U.S. oil consumption.”(2) Other factors behind the increase include “predictions that the U.S. will exhaust it’s supply of oil in as little as forty years, an ever increasing demand from population growth, new uses found for the resource, and an increase in demand for a resource to increase living standards.”(5)

By 1994, the U.S. was importing more oil than it produced. In 2010, oil imports will provide about 60 percent of all oil consumed in the USA.”(2) The United States remains as one of the world’s largest importer of crude oil, although oil imports declined by 10% since 2006.

In closing, the question is can America wait till 2035 or beyond to become energy independent? The hope of 1980 is long gone. Today, incentives for alternate energy are thin. Few if any congress man/women, democrat, republican, tea party member would campaign to increase foreign imports of oil. So what is it? Possibly our government just does not give a dam.

References:

(1) “Address to the Nation About Policies To Deal With the Energy Shortages,”  The American Presidency Project, Richard Nixon, November 7, 1973: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4034#axzz1s3rdILHB

(2) “American Energy Independence,” Ron Bengtson, AmericanEnergyIndependence.com, September 2010, http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/aei-intro.pdf

(3) “Foreign Oil Imports Drop As U.S. Drilling Ramps Up,” Elizabeth Shogren, NPR, January 24, 2012, http://www.npr.org/2012/01/24/145719179/foreign-oil-imports-drop-as-u-s-drilling-ramps-up

(4) “Oil Imports to the U.S.,” O&G Next Generation, http://powerfulinfographic.com/?p=288

(5)  “Oil Consumption in North America,” Jason J. Churchill  October 25, 2000, http://maps.unomaha.edu/peterson/funda/sidebar/oilconsumption.html

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