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September 04 2012

18:09

Do as I Say, Not as I ...

The Energy Department fails to take some relatively easy low-cost steps to cut its energy consumption, an audit finds.

August 28 2012

17:53

Romney's "Oil Above All" Energy Plan Short on Variety, and on Energy



Last Thursday, Mitt Romney presented his “oil above all” energy plan, in which he promised “North American energy independence” by 2020. Far from comprehensive, the plan echoes the familiar “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra from the 2008 presidential campaign, and offers no energy strategy beyond increasing domestic production of oil and gas, and increased access to Canadian tar sands crude.

Proving his devotion to "oil above all" was the graph that the presidential hopeful presented while unveiling his plan to a "modest crowd" in New Mexico. As far as graphics go, it's  confused and misleading, so let me walk you through it in case you missed CNN's live coverage.

Though it's titled "North American Oil Production: Energy Independence by 2020," the demand line represents only the United States' oil needs. Hey, at least the Romney team doesn't anticipate our oil consumption to rise over the next eight years.


The bar on the left represents the roughly 15 million barrels per day that the U.S. produces, and the roughly 7 million barrels per day that we import.

Each bar to the right represents a theoretical production or import "gain" that could be achieved by 2020 under Romney's plan. Another 2 million barrels per day from unrestricted offshore drilling. Another 2 million barrels per day from "tight oil" or shale oil that can only be recovered through fracking.  Another 1 million barrels per day from unrestricted drilling in Alaska. Increased production of natural gas liquids and biofuels, a head scratcher since this graph is supposedly about "oil production." Then, the tentative imports from Canada and, to a lesser and less certain degree, Mexico.

This “oil above all” plan was announced just two days after Romney attended an industry fundraiser that helped to raise $7 million for his campaign.

The 21-page “energy policy white paper” that officially defines the plan bears the clear imprint of shale oil billionaire and top Romney energy advisor, Harold Hamm. Hamm stands to benefit greatly from the transfer of control of energy development projects from the federal government to states, which generally have more relaxed permitting processes for exploration and development of oil and gas resources.

Besides “empowering states to control onshore energy development,” Romney’s plan calls for rapid expansion of offshore drilling and rapid, rubber-stamp approval of new fossil fuel pipelines, like the Keystone XL, from Canadian tar sands sources.

The energy plan does not mention “climate change," nor are the words or concepts of energy efficiency and conservation anywhere to be seen.

Regardless of how you personally feel about an energy “plan” that treats oil drilling as a cure-all for America’s energy challenges, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the numbers to see just how realistic the plan actually is.

Even if there weren’t grave climate and environmental implications for drilling every last drop of American oil, just how far would that get us to actual “energy independence”?


Let’s start by looking at the proven reserves of petroleum on American lands and offshore.


Proven American Petroleum Reserves

According to the Energy Information Agency’s latest numbers, there are 25.2 billion barrels of oil in proven U.S. reserves.

At 2010 levels of consumption (6.049 billion barrels/year), those proven reserves would last a little over 4 years.

Let’s be clear that these “proven reserves” numbers are constantly changing, as they represent only, according to the EIA, “the volumes that geologic and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.”

In other words, “proven reserves” are the stashes of oil that are within our grasp — those that have already been discovered and measured and that some company already has a claim on.

On top of these “proven reserves,” there are the greater volumes of oil “resources.” Estimates of U.S. oil resources vary enormously, but let’s use a Congressional Research Service report (pdf) from December of last year that Romney's energy plan itself cites as proof of America’s vast domestic supplies.

That report, U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary (pdf), which describes quite clearly the differences between resources and reserves and the feasibility of extracting various sources, finds a total of roughly 140 billion barrels of oil that they define as “undiscovered technically recoverable resources.”

Add those to the 25.2 billion barrels that we know we have, and that’s a total of 162 billion barrels of oil that we could possibly drill, to say nothing of the economics or the environmental or climate impacts.

Those 162 billion barrels would last the United States under 27 years at 2010 levels of consumption.

Of course, Romney was careful to state that his plan is one for “North American energy independence,” emphasizing his intentions to immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline and deepen America’s reliance on foreign oil from our friendly neighbors up north.

So what of those Canadian tar sands? There’s no question that there is an immense volume of crude that could be refined out of the vast Athabasca tar sands reserves. Again, this analysis is only of the numbers, and not to even get into the considerable climate and environmental implications.

The most ambitious estimates from the oil industry-friendly think tank Institute for Energy Research guesses that there are 320 billion barrels worth. But it’s still incredibly expensive and energy intensive to turn that tar sands into usable crude, and production is neither happening as fast as Romney’s plan demands, nor is it something that an American president would have any control over.

To wit: according to the government of Alberta, tar sands production is expected to increase from about 1.3 million barrels/day in 2008 to 3 million barrels/day in 2018.

Yet according to the chart that Romney pointed to throughout his presentation, it looks like he is counting on roughly 4-5 million barrels/day of Canadian crude by 2020. By even the most ambitious estimations, the total volume of tar sands crude produced will be 5 million barrels/day by 2010. In other words, Romney’s plan calls for 80-100 percent (or more!) of Canada’s tar sands crude to be consumed by Americans in 2010.

Finally, Romney repeatedly claimed that his energy plan would “lower energy prices” in the U.S., a claim that is demonstrably false. Oil prices are set on a global market, and that, as the Associated Press proved with a statistical analysis earlier this year, there’s “no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

The only realistic way to lower oil prices in the U.S., which consumes just under one-quarter of the world’s oil, is to reduce demand.

Curiously absent from Romney’s energy plan is any mention of doing that. It’s not hard to find painless, economically-viable ways to do it.

Look no further than the Obama administration's new fuel economy standards that Congressional Republicans are fighting tooth and nail. If enacted, these rules would save the average driver somewhere on the order of $500-600 per year, would create around 700,000 jobs, and — most relevant to this discussion — reduce American oil demand by roughly 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025.

That’s more than all the oil that Romney plans on getting from additional offshore drilling, or from shale oil, and more than twice as much as he hopes to get from Alaska, in his “oil above all” plan. 

Why has it become fashionable among the GOP to completely ignore the enormous potential to reduce oil demand through efficiency and conservation?

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March 23 2012

15:54

Apps, Anyone? Managing Your Energy Consumption

The White House and Department of Energy challenge software developers to build Web and smartphone applications that help consumers understand hour-by-hour data on their usage.

June 15 2011

22:23

Dracula Lurks in Your Set-Top Box

Set-top boxes in the United States consume nearly as much energy when not in use as when they are on, costing a cumulative $2 billion a year.

April 13 2011

16:46

A Curmudgeon's View of the Energy Challenge

An environmental professor believes simple tools for energy conservation already exist but that rich nations choose not to deploy them.

March 28 2011

11:32

Development Splits Architects in Sydney

The site will get its electricity from trigeneration generators, a system where heat, mechanical energy and cooling are created from a single source, harnessing "waste heat" to raise overall output.

January 20 2011

21:36

January 11 2011

13:03

An Energy Epiphany: Staying Home Is Cheap

A smart meter and a holiday vacation awaken a homeowner to how much energy his family consumes -- and how much appliances consume when not in direct use.

December 10 2010

21:47

Fretting at the Gas Pump

Over the last week, gasoline prices rose from $2.90 to $2.98 a gallon; that's 35 cents higher than a year ago. And analysts expect them to rise further in the spring.

October 26 2010

14:59

And the Winner Is ... a Very Frugal Dorm

A residence hall at the University of North Carolina places first in a competition sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce buildings' energy consumption.

October 15 2010

12:19

Dr. Chu Talks Efficiency

In a new video, the energy secretary discusses home insulation, dishwashing, solar and wind energy equipment and tax credits.

August 11 2010

22:09

LED Bulb Edges Below $20

Not long ago, such bulbs were not expected by most experts to cost less than $30 until the year 2012.

July 09 2010

17:40

Despite the Best Intentions...

Even as the Bloomberg administration promoted tap water over bottled water, the city spent over $1 million on bottled water in the year that ended June 30.
14:31

Might We Do as the Romans Do?

An Italian energy giant finds that raising the thermostat slightly results in big energy savings each summer.

July 08 2010

22:11

May 05 2010

18:53

February 04 2010

09:02

Energy Savings: Save Funds On Your Residential Utility Charges

Lowering costs is an important exercise today when you realistically want to bank on a terrific financial future for you and your household.

Being economical is a notable strategy to help ensure you are able to be effectively equipped monetarily for the long term, whether your ambitions include paying for a new home, purchasing a vehicle, sending your teen to higher education, taking a long-sought family trip, or just the modest aim of paying off all of your month-to-month charges entirely and when they’re due.

You will find no lack of methods to preserve your assets. Simple tactics range from tucking away a percentage of your weekly take-home pay to bypassing several of the tempting small treats you may ordinarily be tempted to spend for yourself.

Changing Your Thinking Patterns

Lowering costs should be part of a different way of thinking (if you did not have it before now) and consequential lifestyle to help make your future security a realistic probability. Certainly such an endeavor is most efficient when embraced with all members of the family. Reducing energy costs is one great strategy for saving money.

Minor Changes with Vehicles and Store Shopping

For instance, avoid operating a vehicle when you realistically do not need to. Any time you’re able, just take a stroll, ride a bicycle or use the bus if the costs are cheap. Along with taking walks or bicycle riding, you get the added in reward of greater fitness – which for many may result in considerable savings in itself.

When auto transportation is a necessity, make an effort to coordinate a car pool together with friends or others who live nearby. You might additionally join with others to do errands with each other, like food shopping.

And while you’re at the store, you should come organized with a checklist of what exactly you need. Take the “hunting” approach to buying and limit yourself to what is on the checklist. This approach helps you to leave behind appealing items that seem to call your name, such as scrumptious goodies or cool consumer electronics.

Speaking of food, it really is advisable to prepare a nutritious, filling meal before you venture into a grocery store. Hungry individuals often purchase much more on impulse of what they don’t pre-plan compared to those who come to their grocer feeling satisfied from food at home.

Preserve Power Usage

Electrical power – Shut off appliances which are not used. Turn the TV set off when you’re not truly watching it instead of using it for background sound.

Shut the refrigerator after pulling out whatever you need. Use lower wattage lights in places which do not require much lighting. Use power efficient lights that cost a tad more than regular lighting, however they last way longer and do not burn as hot.

Water – Check for leaks in your plumbing. Always make certain that your faucet or tub is not leaking. Eliminate prolonged showers. Sure, they feel terrific during the winter months, but shower speedily and get warm through your clothing afterward. Additionally, utilize a glass or cup for water when brushing your teeth instead of allowing the faucet to remain on.

Telephone – Select a company delivering plans which support unlimited long distance phone calls. And in case you do not actually need a mobile phone (swallow hard here), contemplate not even purchasing one.

Gas – Have your automobile tuned up so that you can cut back on fuel. Fill the gas tank at gas stations on the way of your traveling pattern where charges may be less. And buy gasoline on the way to someplace else instead of taking a special trip to purchase it.

Keep the gas tank more than one half full, and ensure your four tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Travel at or below speed limits. Limit the use of the vehicle’s air conditioning until the temperature is quite warm or humid.

Any of these suggestions exclusively will likely not create a substantial drop in your energy-related expenses. Nevertheless, initiating a life habit of resource efficiency to reduce your energy expenses – working at the seemingly insignificant things each day – can conserve a surprising amount of money if you stick with it.

Read useful info about Free Traffic System – make sure to study this publication. The time has come when proper info is really within your reach, use this possibility.

Read more on Energy Savings: Save Funds On Your Residential Utility Charges…

Energy Tags: biodiesel, hybrid cars

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