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Feb27-12, 09:58 AM
P: 27
Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
That conclusion is not justified, especially given the recession was Fall 2008 and imports have has been falling since 2005.
From the plot it is obvious that the numbers have not been in decline since 2005 and looking at the raw data confirms this (with minor dips lasting no longer than a year).

Yes economic slow downs deserve some of the blame for energy imports and consumption, but other factors apply apply including improvements in economic energy intensity and increase in domestic supply:
1. US energy intensity (energy per unit of economic output) has been cut in half since 1980,and improved 10% the period 2007 to 2010.
I would suggest this is a factor of technology, rather than consumption. As we have seen, consumption has been increasing while production decreasing since 1980.

Definitely an increase (although it is closer to 0.7 mbbl) and much of this can be attributed to the Bakken. Unfortunately, as we know from every other source of hydrocarbon, production peaks and then drops off - moreso with respect to the shale plays as, without constant hydraulic fracturing and drilling, production drops off rapidly.

3. Ethanol production has doubled in the last couple years (see graph from earlier post), now 1 mbbl/day.
Those three things contribute strongly to the reduction in imports and consumption.
They contribute, yes; whether they contribute strongly is a very different thing. They offset some increases in consumption, but they do not come anywhere close to offsetting the historical rise in consumption and the drop in production. Ethanol is, at best, a stop gap and it doesn't account for much of the overall hydrocarbon picture.

A fair point. Note though that energy prices have a way to go before they are constant around the world, and exports to the highest bidder immediate. Natural gas for instance is priced overseas at several multiples of the of the US price (for now). Bakken oil sells at a $30/bbl discount locally (for now). I doubt a squeeze in supply meeting demand becomes serious enough to stop a build out in more energy infrastructure.
Think of it as a a feedback loop. In order to maintain supply to match demand, one needs to expend energy. Greater energy must be spent in order to meet greater demand. As production increases, resources are depleted quicker. As resources are depleted, more energy must be expended in order to drill up and find new resources. So, in order for us to keep pace with growing demand, we must spend energy to speed up production and to fill any voids left by depleted resources. We begin to exploit unconventional sources more and more and our dependance shifts from the more conventional sources (which are all on the decline). To get energy, we must spend energy and the energy we need to spend will only increase.

The US is not an isolated case in the energy cycle. Despite any growing supply from within, consumption still outpaces domestic production by about 40% (compared to 20% in 1980). It is quite apparent that new technologies and new discoveries are not abating the US need for imported hydrocarbons. We can nickle and dime the numbers until the end of time, but the long term historical trends are such that the US relies rather heavily on foreign production of hydrocarbons. In order to bridge that 40%, there will need to be some sort of technological epiphany or the fundamentals of geology/thermodynamics will need to be turned on their collective ears. In the face of a huge global shift in energy consumption, the US will need to make some pretty significant strides in the next decade or so.

The depends on the efficiency of the biofuel method and the consumption at the time. That 500 bbl/acre-year engineered bacteria approach (should it work) requires 13 million acres to meet all of US current consumption (18 mbbl/day). That compares well to the 90 million acres in use currently for all US corn crops, not that such an approach needs arable land.
These forms of biofuel generation are still in their infancy. For as long as ethanol has been used and produced in the US, it still accounts for a fraction of US fuel.