Energizing the Conversation on Energy in These United States

When I talk with people about energy and related matters, I am surprised by how many there are who do not think past the basics: price of gas, cost of electricity to heat a house, etc. Of course, I should not be surprised because it is quite understandable for us to pay the most attention to things which directly bear on our daily lives.

Stephen Hayward is to be thanked for putting together an article which addresses some of the common misconceptions regarding energy usage in the US as well as making a convincing case that we are where we are today not because we have an energy policy, but rather because we have had a number of non-energy policies.

Here he is on our oil consumption:

One remarkable fact is that American oil consumption has remained virtually flat over the last 30 years. Today, we use only slightly more oil than we did in 1978, even though the economy has more than doubled in real terms. This is testimony to the steady improvement in energy efficiency over the last generation, including—yes—our cars and trucks. Since 1975, energy consumption per dollar of economic output has fallen 50 percent. Though efficiency and conservation measures are beloved of environmentalists, it is doubtful any of the government’s manifold mandates, tax incentives, or direct subsidies have made a significant difference in the overall trend of energy efficiency in the United States. The basic market drivers—higher energy prices and expanding profits through resource efficiency—account for most of the improvement. So when we hear the handwringing about our growing dependence on foreign oil, now over 60 percent of our total oil consumption, we should be clear that this trend is entirely the result of declining domestic production and not any soaring demand for oil. Domestic oil production has fallen by more than 1 million barrels a day over the last 10 years. The United States now produces less oil than it did in 1947. This is pathetic. And unnecessary.

To the point, non?

Here is a bit on reducing CO2:

The point is, unlike conventional air pollution, which was reduced without any constraint on fuel use, the CO2 in the atmosphere can be reduced only by the use of massively less coal, oil, and natural gas. But even if the case for catastrophic global warming weren’t in free fall, the energy ambitions of the climate campaign remain so extreme as to make King Canute blush. The target the climate campaigners have set for the United States—an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2050—would require replacing virtually our entire fossil fuel energy infrastructure. Substituting natural gas for coal would deliver only about a 15 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, and even if we replaced every coal plant with a carbon-free nuclear plant, we’d still be less than halfway to the policy target. For the United States, the 80 percent reduction target means reducing our fossil fuel use to a level the nation last experienced in 1910. But since our population in 2050 will be nearly five times larger than the population of 1910, on a per capita basis we’re talking about going back to the fossil fuel use of about 1875. This is patently absurd.

Please, go read the entire piece. The article is lengthy but worthwhile.