Post image for Where Does America’s Oil Come From? (An Update)

In 2005, 60% of all petroleum consumed in the U.S. came from imports. The conventional wisdom then and for several years thereafter was that America was fated to become ever-more-dependent on increasingly costly petroleum imports.

Peak oil alarm was in vogue, popularized by books such as Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life after Gridcrash (2006), Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy (2006), A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash – We’re Running Out and Don’t Have a Plan (2007), Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (2008), and Confronting Collapse: Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World (2009).

M. King Hubbert, the originator of peak oil theory, correctly predicted in 1956 that U.S. domestic petroleum production would peak between 1965-1970. He also forecast a peak in global production by the late-2000s. In 2008, many commentators interpreted spiking crude oil prices as confirmation of Hubbert’s theory.

But Hubbert, who died in 1989, did not live to see the “shale revolution.” During the past decade, advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made it economical to extract oil from the pores of rock. Although U.S. petroleum production is still lower than it was at its peak in 1970, it has increased every year since 2008 with no end in sight.

Citi GPS, a highly respected analytic group, argues that “surging supply growth” from fracked shale formations, deep-water wells, and Canada’s oil sands could “transform North America into the new Middle East by 2020.” Peak oil, if it exists at all, is likely decades away, not around the corner, as the books cited above assumed.

In a previous post, I discussed the Energy Information Administration’s  July 2011 analysis of U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The EIA updated its analysis in May 2013. What has changed?

Basically, there’s more of the same. Already by 2010, more than half of all the oil we consumed came from the U.S. But whereas the balance then was 51% domestic and 49% imports, the balance as of 2012 was 60% domestic and 40% imports (exactly the reverse of the percentages in 2005).

imports_domestic_petro_shares_demand-small 2010


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Post image for ‘Unleash the Energy Export Revolution’ – Mark Mills

Today in National Review Online, Mark Mills has a terrific column titled “Unleash the Energy Export Revolution.” He begins by calling out the irrationality of our government’s current anti-energy export policy: 

On May 17, the Department of Energy (DOE) approved just the second license in America to export natural gas. Nineteen more applicants still wait. Yes, private businesses, willing to spend tens of billions of private capital, are lined up for a schoolyard game of “Mother May I” to get permission to export a product that the U.S. is uniquely good at manufacturing. So good, in fact, that America is now the world’s No. 1 producer, with no end in sight. What a world. 

Or, as comedian Yakov Smirnov might say, “What a country!”

Mills makes several salient points. [click to continue…]

Post image for A Modest Proposal on Exports: Give Dow Chemical a Dose of its own Medicine

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris has been making waves of late with congressional testimony and a Wall Street Journal oped advocating restrictions on U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

To oppose “unfettered,” “unlimited,” or “unchecked” LNG exports — in other words, to fetter, limit, and check the freedom of gas producers to sell their own products — Dow formed a business group called America’s Energy Advantage (AEA). Other members include Alcoa, Eastman, Huntsman, and Nucor.

AEA’s rationale for restricting gas exports (to quote Liveris’s oral testimony) is that when gas is not exported but instead is used to manufacture products, it creates “eight times the value” across the entire economy. That claim derives from a Charles River Associates (CRA) study sponsored by — drum roll, please — Dow. According to CRA, using gas as a manufacturing input trounces gas exports in terms of job creation, GDP growth, and trade-deficit reduction. Therefore, AEA argues, Congress and/or the Department of Energy (DOE) should constrain LNG exports in the “public interest.” AEA also warns that higher gas prices from increased overseas demand could destroy tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and kill the U.S. manufacturing renaissance. AEA claims it is not opposed to all LNG exports, it just wants a “balanced” approach.

Economist Craig Pirrong (a.k.a. the “Streetwise Professor“) deftly pops this rhetorical balloon:

I am adding a new entry to my list of phrases that put me on guard that someone is trying to con me: “balanced approach.”. . . . In Obamaland, “balanced approaches” mean large tax increases now, and hazy promises of spending cuts in some distant future. In Liveris’s oped, “balanced” means imposing restrictions on exports of natural gas to lower the cost of his most important input. Funny, ain’t it, that things seem to tip the way of those advocating “balanced approaches”? In other words, if it helps me, it’s fair and balanced!

The whole thing is galling. Even if Liveris were correct and gas turned into chemicals generates “eight times” the economic value of gas sold abroad, such third-party assessments should have no bearing on how companies dispose of their own property. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry points out, AEA companies did not invest a dime to develop fracking and horizontal drilling technology, construct the wells, or hire the rig workers, yet they presume to decide what happens to the gas after it’s extracted from miles under the Earth. Not unlike the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, AEA’s implicit premise is that central planners have the right, nay the duty, to commandeer private property whenever the resource would add more value in someone else’s hands.

But do Liveris and AEA really believe the rationale they’re pushing, or only when it cuts in their favor? Here’s an easy way to tell. Dow, Alcoa, Eastman, Huntsman, and Nucor primarily manufacture intermediate goods, not final goods. As natural gas is an input to them, so their products are inputs to still other companies. AEA-produced chemicals, plastics, electronic components, aluminum, and steel reach the consumer only after other manufacturers “add value” by turning those “feed stocks” into paints, cosmetics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, computers, cell phones, automobiles, and so on.

So by AEA’s logic, the government should restrict exports of chemicals, aluminum, and steel to hold down domestic prices and make U.S. manufacturers of final goods more competitive. The “public interest” demands it! I’ll bet my salary against Liveris’s that he will never, ever agree that sauce for the goose should also be sauce for the gander. [click to continue…]

Post image for Cloud Computing: Friend or Foe of Kyotoism?

As I sit here typing away, Amazon.Com’s Cloud Player serves up 320 tunes I’ve purchased over the past year and a half. I can play them anywhere, any time, on any computer with Internet access. I don’t have to lug around my laptop or even a flash drive. What’s not to like?

Our greener friends worry about all the power consumed by the data centers that deliver computer services over the Internet. Think of all the emissions!

A year-long New York Times investigation summarized in Saturday’s (Sep. 22) edition (“Pollution, Power, and the Internet“) spotlights the explosive growth of the data storage facilities supporting our PCs, cell phones, and iPods — and the associated surge in energy demand. According to The Times:

  • In early 2006, Facebook had 10 million or so users and one main server site. “Today, the information generated by nearly one billion people requires outsize versions of these facilities, called data centers, with rows and rows of servers spread over hundreds of thousands of square feet, and all with industrial cooling systems.”
  • “They [Facebook’s servers] are a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of data centers that now exist to support the overall explosion of digital information. Stupendous amounts of data are set in motion each day as, with an innocuous click or tap, people download movies on iTunes, check credit card balances through Visa’s Web site, send Yahoo e-mail with files attached, buy products on Amazon, post on Twitter or read newspapers online.”
  • “To support all that digital activity, there are now more than three million data centers of widely varying sizes worldwide, according to figures from the International Data Corporation.”
  • “Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show.”
  • “Jeremy Burton, an expert in data storage, said that when he worked at a computer technology company 10 years ago, the most data-intensive customer he dealt with had about 50,000 gigabytes in its entire database. (Data storage is measured in bytes. The letter N, for example, takes 1 byte to store. A gigabyte is a billion bytes of information.)”
  • “Today, roughly a million gigabytes are processed and stored in a data center during the creation of a single 3-D animated movie, said Mr. Burton, now at EMC, a company focused on the management and storage of data.”
  • “Just one of the company’s clients, the New York Stock Exchange, produces up to 2,000 gigabytes of data per day that must be stored for years, he added.”

The impact of the Internet — or, more broadly, the proliferation of digital technology and networks — on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions has been a contentious topic since 1999, when technology analyst Mark P. Mills published a study provocatively titled “The Internet Begins with Coal” and co-authored with Peter Huber a Forbes column titled “Dig more coal: The PCs are coming.” [click to continue…]

Post image for North America’s Energy Future Is Bright (If Government Gets Out of the Way) — Institute for Energy Research

You have probably heard or read the talking point many times: The United States consumes nearly one-quarter of the world’s oil but we have only 2-3% of the world’s proved reserves (here, here, here), hence we cannot drill our way out of high gasoline prices (here, here, here), and should instead adopt policies (cap-and-trade, biofuel quota, fuel-efficiency mandates) to accelerate America’s transition to a low-carbon future.

A new report by the Institute for Energy Research (IER), North American Energy Inventory (December 2011), demolishes the gloomy assessment underpinning demands for centralized planning of America’s energy future. [click to continue…]

Post image for NTY Revisits June Frack-Attack

Arthur Brisbane of the NYT this weekend published an op-ed which reads a bit like a ‘mea culpa’ in response to repeated criticisms of reporter Ian Urbina’s jumbling attack on natural gas hydraulic fracturing published late last month:

I also asked why The Times didn’t include input from the energy giants, like Exxon Mobil, that have invested billions in natural gas recently. If shale gas is a Ponzi scheme, I wondered, why would the nation’s energy leader jump in?

Mr. Urbina and Adam Bryant, a deputy national editor, said the focus was not on the major companies but on the “independents” that focus on shale gas, because these firms have been the most vocal boosters of shale gas, have benefited most from federal rules changes regarding reserves and are most vulnerable to sharp financial swings. The independents, in industry parlance, are a diverse group that are smaller than major companies like Exxon Mobil and don’t operate major-brand gas stations.

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Post image for NY AG Launches Spitzerian Suit over Fracking

In the worst Spitzerian tradition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) today announced that he is suing the federal government for failing to conduct an environmental analysis on the impacts to drinking water caused by ‘fracking,’ a.k.a. hydraulic fracturing, the American-made technological miracle in natural gas production that has roughly doubled known North American gas reserves in only the last 5 years.

New York could be a huge beneficiary of fracking, as much of the state is situated above the Marcellus Shale, an enormous gas deposit in the American Northeast that can be tapped only with this new technology. But environmentalist special interest groups oppose the practice, because it would expand America’s supply of hydrocarbon energy, and they have whipped up alarm among Manhattanites by making unfounded claims that fracking would pollute New York City’s water supply.

In fact, these allegations are bunk. Just ask the British Parliament, which recently concluded that fracking is safe for water supplies. Closer to home, AG Schneiderman could have sought counsel from New York State Geologist Dr. Taury Smith, a self-described liberal Democrat, who  told the Albany Times Union that the state’s natural gas deposits are “a huge gift.” Dr. Smith dismissed the environmentalists’ allegations about water contamination as being “exaggerated,” and “the worst spin.”

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Post image for Fracking’s Only Drawback: Rampant Rent-Seeking

As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I’m a big fan of ‘fracking,’ a.k.a. hydraulic fracturing, the American-made technological miracle in natural gas production that has roughly doubled known North American gas reserves in only the last five years. In previous posts, I’ve defended fracking from nonsensical attacks launched by ill-informed environmentalists. Quite contrary to what the alarmists would have you believe, we’re lucky for the fracking revolution. Not only has it dramatically increased our domestic supply of natural gas, but now it’s being used to extract oil, too, and it could prove just as revolutionary for that industry.

Fracking does, however, have one major drawback: it has caused rampant rent-seeking. While gas supply has exploded, American consumption increased only 9 percent from 2005 to 2010. The sagging economy has further increased this disparity between gas supply and demand. For consumers, this is great, as it should usher in a period of relatively stable, low prices in the historically volatile gas market. For gas producers, it could be great. The low prices should make their product more attractive relative to other forms of energy. In turn, this could lead to whole new sectors of demand.The problem is that a couple major players in the gas industry refuse to wait for market forces to work their magic.  Instead, these impatient industry titans are trying to convince politicians to enact policies that force Americans to use natural gas.

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Post image for Bipartisan UK Panel: ‘Fracking’ Is Fine for Water Supplies

British columnist Johann Hari recently took to the Huffington Post to try to whip up alarm about the supposed dangers posed to drinking water by ‘fracking,’ a.k.a hydraulic fracturing, an American-made technological miracle in natural gas production that has roughly doubled known North American gas reserves in only the last five years. I rebutted Hari’s baseless environmentalist talking points in a previous post, and I am much pleased to report this morning that the British Parliament agrees with my debunking of his nonsensical claims.

According to Public Service Europe (by way of the Global Warming Policy Foundation),

“Shale gas drilling has been given the go-ahead by members of the UK parliament who have insisted that the process is safe. An inquiry by the Energy and Climate Change committee concluded that fracking, the process by which gas is extracted from shale rock, poses no risk to underground water supplies as long as drilling wells are properly constructed.”

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Post image for Fact Check: British Columnist Johann Hari Wrong on ‘Fracking’

London Independent columnist Johann Hari feels betrayed by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to embrace the American-made revolution in natural gas production, known as hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a., ‘fracking’). Recently, he wrote in the Huffington Post,

“When the British Prime Minister David Cameron gazed into the dewy eyes of a husky and promised to lead “the greenest government ever,” what did you think that would involve?… you certainly wouldn’t have expected David Cameron’s latest plan. He has decided to convert us to a new energy source [fracking] that seems, in the US, to have released cancer-causing chemicals and radiation into the water supply…”

“Cancer-causing chemicals” AND “radiation” have been released “into the water supply”….that sounds really scary! Fortunately for this American tap-water enthusiast, Hari is full of it. As I explain here,

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