US energy independence

<p>Hard to consider in a UK where the Peak Oil view is considered such&nbsp;<a href=”” target=”_blank”>indisputable</a>&nbsp;mainstream opinion that questioning it is considered extreme, but today’s New York Times has a front page piece on “<a href=”;ref=global-home” target=”_blank”>US Inches towards Goal of Energy Independence”</a>. Will this article make it to the New York Times section of this Sunday’s Observer Newspaper, the Sunday version of the Guardian which, like Caroline Lucas the other night, remains relentlessly dismissive of the possibility of European shale resources? Let’s hope it does, because the UK seriously needs a reality check.&nbsp;<a href=”index.php/2008/107-current-affairs/1066-yet-another-par” target=”_blank”>Four years ago I</a> read about shale gas and asked why not here, and the majority of UK media still know nothing about it. Thanks to our famously incurious media that absolutely refuse to print anything outside the narrative of declining resource and looming catastrophe, Europe may barely hear about the US story until the US recovery is so strong that it will swamp us:</p>
<p style=”margin-left: 30px;”>&nbsp;<span style=”color: #008000;”>Across the country, the oil and gas industry is vastly increasing production, reversing two decades of decline.</span></p>
<p class=”p1″ style=”margin-left: 30px;”>&nbsp;<span style=”color: #008000;”>At the same time, Americans are pumping significantly less gasoline.&nbsp;</span></p>
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<p class=”p1″ style=”margin-left: 30px;”>&nbsp;<span style=”color: #008000;”>Taken together, the increasing production and declining consumption have unexpectedly brought the United States markedly closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon: independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more. In 2011, the country imported just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005.</span></p>
<p>But we could, and should, hear more about US energy independence due to the political game changer;</p>
<p style=”margin-left: 30px;”>&nbsp;<span style=”color: #008000;”>“There is no question that many national security policy makers will believe they have much more flexibility and will think about the world differently if the United States is importing a lot less oil,” said Michael A. Levi, an energy and environmental senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “For decades, consumption rose, production fell and imports increased, and now every one of those trends is going the other way.”</span></p>
<p>This is what will really change everything for the better. I’ve addressed the role of fracking in oil production for the past couple of years, but I have concentrated more on shale gas than shale energy in general. But this from Texas shows the potential:</p>
<p style=”margin-left: 30px;”><span style=”color: #008000;”>&nbsp;Pioneer’s rising fortunes can be seen on a 10,000-acre field known as the Giddings Estate, a forsaken stretch inhabited by straggly coyotes, rabbits, rattlesnakes and cows that forage for grass between the sagebrush. When Pioneer bought it in 2005, the field’s hundred mostly broken-down wells were producing a total of 50 barrels a day. “It was a diamond in the rough,” said Robert Hillger, who manages it for Pioneer.</span></p>
<p style=”margin-left: 30px;”>&nbsp;<span style=”color: #008000;”>Today, the Giddings field is pumping 7,000 barrels a day, and Pioneer expects to hit 25,000 barrels a day by 2017.</span></p>
<p>Let’s be crystal clear:what is happening on the Giddings Estate can happen several places in Europe as well. Caroline Lucas and Richard Branson may be able to convince some people that shale gas is too risky, but turning down $115 a barrel oil sounds like a hard sell &nbsp;But the first place we need to start is to understand that fracking is not only about natural gas but also oil. The risk dynamics change completely for oil instead of gas.&nbsp;</p>
<p>A second strand of the Times story that needs to be more widely read is the impact not only of rising supply, but also of falling demand. While the experts at Green NGOs know what is happening, the story isn’t getting through to the base, often still convinced that we are inexorably using more energy, a key tenet of Peak Oil. &nbsp;Great piece on another conventional wisdom smasher earlier this week in the <a href=”” target=”_blank”>NYT:</a></p>
<p class=”p1″ style=”margin-left: 30px;”><span style=”color: #008000;”>Customer satisfaction surveys show cars having fewer and fewer problems with each passing year. Much of this improvement is a result of intense global competition — a carmaker simply can’t allow its products to leak oil, break down or wear out prematurely.</span></p>
<p class=”p1″ style=”margin-left: 30px;”><span style=”color: #008000;”>But another, less obvious factor has been the government-mandated push for lower emissions.</span></p>
<p class=”p1″ style=”margin-left: 30px;”><span style=”color: #008000;”>”The California Air Resources Board and the EPA have been very focused on making sure that catalytic converters perform within 96 percent of their original capability at 100,000 miles,” said Jagadish Sorab, technical leader for engine design at Ford Motor. “Because of this, we needed to reduce the amount of oil being used by the engine to reduce the oil reaching the catalysts.</span></p>
<p class=”p1″><span style=”color: #000000;”>As someone who got their license in 1970’s America, where you could buy a dollar’s worth of gasoline the year I graduated high school &nbsp;without total embarrassment , the transformation over many years has been dramatic. Cars and especially US ones, were the original symptom of a society built on planned obsolescence. The success of the US auto industry is a significant victory for sustainable development, but &nbsp;many greens are too blind to see it. I thought I was driving a 160,000 BMW because I’m cheap and it doesn’t want to die. It seems I’m simply a trendsetter.</span></p>
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