“Saudi America?” – Is US Energy Independence Hype or Not

by M.D. Creekmore on December 7, 2012 · 22 comments

Guest post written by Marjory Wildcraft

Last week I attended several talks presented by ASPO USA – the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. I like the ASPO group as they are level-headed, asking only what is the situation, and not going off on flaming tangents or panic. In fact, I like them so much I am becoming a sponsor of ASPO.

Everything in modern life is based on energy, and ASPO tries to get intelligent answers to questions like “how much oil is there on the planet and how available is it?”. The answer to this is surprisingly difficult because each Gov’t, and the oil industry as a whole, tends to keep things as secret as possible. Sort of like a global poker game where no one is going to show all of their cards, but they do like to brag about their hand.

I went to the meeting because I’ve heard so much about the US becoming energy independent… especially this last election cycle there was a lot of talk. Uh, even Newt Gingrich was saying it could be possible for the US to be energy independent in a year or two. Hah, Newt, I want some of what you are smoking.

There have been some sizable finds in the Dakotas and South Texas. So how big are these finds and how much will it impact you? Is Peak Oil over?

Well, here is the really short answer. The US produces about 6 million barrels of oil per day. And we consume about 15 million barrels per day. The most the US ever produced (back in the 1970′s) was 11.6 million barrels per day. So we are big time short.

The new finds coming online are estimated around a half a million barrels per day – and we don’t know how sustainable those levels are.

Ohh, that’s not good is it? No.

Energy independence ain’t going to happen. In fact, every presenter on the panel adamantly stated the US would not attain oil energy independence. Ever.

Another take away from the sessions is that the US does have a lot of natural gas. But, converting our infrastructure to use it is a massive undertaking.

It was also noted that world-wide there is a lot more energy to be found. But it is very ‘dirty’ and expensive to get. And If we do use it, no one knows what effects that will have on the planet, but it ain’t likely to be good.

So no matter which way you dice it, we are in for a future with more expensive energy. That means more expensive transportation, food, heating…

If you would like to check out the proceedings from the ASPO conference, click here: www.aspousa.org. There are some realy heavy hitters on the board there, oil men, university professors, and geologists. Lots of good solid resources for answers on energy questions. I like them.

Marjory Wildcraft is the creator of the video set “Grow Your Own Groceries”. Marjory says that growing your own food is surprisingly fulfilling. You can find out more about Marjory at www.GrowYourOwnGrocerceries.com

22 comments

Hunker-Down December 7, 2012 at 11:03 am

There is a vast difference between “oil energy independence” and “energy independence”. The latter includes oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, wave action, cellulose and cow farts (methane).
The demand for cow fart collectors is inversely related in price to the cost of hamburger.
I believe that when hyperinflation hits we will become an energy independent nation even after TDL annihilates the coal industry.

We are trying our best at growing our own groceries and could do a lot better if we had a cow.

Thank you for the resource, it is difficult nowadays to find such honest people.

Unleashd January 25, 2013 at 1:10 am

brilliant answer …..yes!

Harold December 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Problem with most of these think tanks is the information they are using to come up with their figures. It is not independently gathered but rather furnished by agencies with and interest in the outcome of the study. Based on reports and what I know about the quantity of recoverable petroleum here in our own state that has been suppressed by bought out politicians in interest of bigger money producers, I would have a natural tendency to seriously doubt the outcome of any of the study groups. When you have an agency tell you there is no recoverable natural gas in an area that is subsequently leased under government pressure to a large energy corporation as a “storage field” for natural gas piped up from Oklahoma which injects one trillion cubic feet of natural gas and then during the winter, retrieves three trillion cubic feet of natural gas to be sold to the natural gas public utility servicing Chicago, leaves we downstaters with a bitter taste in our mouths, just like the crushing by political leaders of Farm Supply who as a cooperative wanted to break free from dependance on out of state interests and use our own native petroleum production to service the farmers interests only to be burdened with increasing laws and regulations prohibiting the consumption of diesel and gasoline derived from our native petroleum. Yes, we can achieve energy independence using all of our resources unfettered by crooked bought out politicians by removing any and all political interference including EPA interference in the production of native resources. Only then can we achieve it. Return to Constitution and throw those bought out bums from public office and get rid of those restrictive ruling agencies, none of which were ever elected by a popular vote in the first place.

JP in MT December 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Fuel prices are also based upon international demand. As nations that were “3rd world” “move up” and change their economies their demand for oil and its bi-products go up, increasing costs.
We could be energy independent. The problem is we’d have to become anti-social too. We would have to outlaw international sales of our products until our domestic needs are met. Then the oil companies could sell the surplus on the international markets at inflated prices.
See where this goes? More government intervention in the markets. Looks good on paper, but what are the “unintended consequences”?

EthanP December 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm

You miss the point. The more oil produced globaly, the lower the price. And if we produce it here, the money stays here. And foreign money would come here. But relax. BHO will never allow it.

JP in MT December 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm

EthanP:

I stopped worrying about things I can’t control (for the most part) several years ago. Just trying to concentrate on those things I can. Right now I have no real solution to lowering my energy costs. Something I intend to fix once we move.

The other thing as I understand it, is these “new” sources of oil are more expensive to convert into usable form, i.e. gasoline. Put I’m not a petroleum expert (not even a good amateur).

EthanP December 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I don’t doubt the potential. And Canada is experiencing an economic boon due to shale oil. But the Barak HUSSEIN Obama EPA will not allow it in the USA. He wants us broke and weak.

Lexington December 9, 2012 at 6:48 am

The “boom” you speak of, which is something of a mixed blessing for Canada, is being caused by exploitation of the tarsands (or as the petroleum industry prefers, “oilsands”), not shale oil.

Listen before you speak.

village idiot December 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I really don’t know who you are, but you know nothing about the oil and gas business. The Bakkan Field in No. Dakota is producing over 600,000 bopd right now, not counting the Eagle Ford in Texas which should go over the 1,000,000 bopd mark in a year or so. We could easily get another 500,000 bopd in Alaska if drilling would get approved by the government. The Gulf of Mexico could produce way more if drilling hadn’t been shut down for so long, and now several rigs have been moved. We know the oil is there. New technology is allowing for the resurrection of old oil fields, and I know for a fact that numerous old fields are producing at much higher levels and more oil is now recoverable. Your figures, or whoever gave you those figures, is incorrect.

But these are only two on the dozens of formations that are in the process of being developed and are now producing oil and gas. Here’s a few more for your persusal:
Haynesville Shale
Barnett Shale
Utica Shale
Marcellus Shale
Niobrara Shale
Fayetteville Shale
Brown Dense

Those were just a few I could think of off the top of my head. The International Energy Agency disagrees with your assessment, and was the agency that said the US could be the world’s largest producer of crude by 2017 if I remember correctly. If the politicians don’t stop it. The only way we are at peak oil is if politians make it so.

Lexington December 9, 2012 at 7:15 am

I don’t think the issue here is really what Marjory knows about oil and gas, but rather what you do relative to ASPO. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil is composed of industry insiders like petroleum engineers and geologists. What are your qualifications again?

It has already been established that shale oil formations, most especially including Bakkan, are experiencing much faster than anticipated declines in production (couldn’t find the specific article I wanted on this, but this will give you the general idea <a href="http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-09-25/shale-oil-production-bakken-headed-run-%E2%80%9C-red-queen%E2%80%9D&quot;).

In any case as Michael Klare explains here even if you what you say is true (and it isn’t), the consequences of exploiting available energy resources is going to have catastrophic consequences for climate change.

village idiot December 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Why should I think the ASPO has any expertise over the International Engery Agency? Doesn’t the IEA have geologists, engineers, etc. on their staff? Why should I believe ASPO over the IEA, or better yet, why should you?

I happen to concur with the IEA assessment. As for my qualifications, I’ve helped in my own small way to develope the Barnett and Haynesville shale formations, and am now working to develope the Cotton Valley sands. I’m also working on the Brown Dense play. Just first hand experience, not the academic stuff at UT. I’m sure that disqualifies me in your eyes.

Patriot Dave December 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

The information is only as good as the source. The environmental wackos who hate all things that contributed to our standard of living in the last 100 years have gained enough control in government and elsewhere to manipulate the data. They want everyone to believe we are running out of oil and killing the planet. Neither has been proven scientifically. The evidence is not there or is fraudulent. A big lie repeated often enough is believed by the population. So the political wind is starting to blow to change to solar and wind exclusively even if the market is not ready and the result is astronomical prices to heat a home. Many will have to go back to burning wood, and riding horses, Which, produces the “pollutants” environmentalist claim they want to eliminate. Meanwhile, we have not built a nuclear power plant in about 30 years. We have not built a refinery in about the same amount of time. He have not upgraded our grid. The moritorium is still in place in the gulf, despite court orders to the contrary. federal permits are down, if allowed at all, they come with onerous regulations. All new drilling is on private land or state owned land. There real goal is hidden in the code word “sustainable” a.k.a. killing 80% of the world’s population. See U.N. agenda 21.
” The current decline in population growth rates must be further promoted
through national and international policies that promote economic
development, social development, environmental protection, and poverty
eradication,…”

Lexington December 9, 2012 at 7:29 am

“The information is only as good as the source”

True.

What specifically is your objection to the ASPO, which isn’t an environmental organization but one composed of energy industry professionals?

The theory of peak oil was first articulated by M. King Hubbert (chief geologist of Shell Petroleum) in 1956 at a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute. Hubbert predicted US oil production would peak in 1971. In spite of his credentials that prediction was widely ridiculed at the the time, when the US was the world’s largest petroleum producer – but history vindicated Hubbert – his prediction was only off by a few months.

If you want to learn more I highly recommend Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak” by Kenneth Deffeyes. Deffeyes is emeritus professor of geology at Princeton, I hope he isn’t open to being accused of being some environtentalist nutjob.

As for the IEA study, yes, it got a lot of publicity. So did it’s many, many critics. The IEA traditionally has not attempted to measure future petroleum production, they have only projected future DEMAND (rather than supply), and *assumed* the supplies would be available. The very fact they felt the need to change their approach seems significant.

village idiot December 10, 2012 at 12:08 am

ASPO said back in the early 2000s that we had peak natural gas. They were wrong as natural gas production did not peak, and production is now up and prices are down. If they were wrong on natural gas, why are they right on oil? The same market forces apply. The shale formations produce oil, gas and gas liquids in almost every instance. Some like the Bakkan and Eagle Ford have more oil, but there are usually “wet” areas in most shale formations.

The United States Geologicl Survey(USGS), in a press release dated 8/14/2012, reported that natural gas production has reached an all time high, and that oil production is at its highest level in 14 years. The report added an additional 32 billion barrels of conventional reserves to the US total. Unconventional reserves were not even taken into account. They are in the hundreds of billions of barrels, according to the US Energy Information Administration, an agency of the US Government. Do you dispute either of these assessments?

This production and reserves increase is not some theory, but is real production from tight rock formations. As for the drop off in production rates, we are finding that rates can be improved significantly by going back in the wells using newer technology like coiled tubing. Wells have always had to be worked over, so why should wells in shale formations be any different? Not only does coiled tubing stimulation enhance production in second generation workovers, but it is being used to rehabilitate old supposedly used up oil resorvoirs. Most reservoirs have had less than 50% recovery rates, some much less, so now we are going back and recovering significant amounts of oil from old fields using new techniques. That’s what I’m working on right now. Nope, no peak oil yet, unless the politicians make it so.

Tactical G-Ma December 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm

MD
Thanks for the article.

Harold December 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm

You didn’t drill that!!

T.R. December 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I dont think we have an energy dependance problem …….we have a lack of infrastructure problem . The fact that we depend on trucking to move things instead of rail proves it . Perhaps gas needs to get up to $10.00 a gallon for our own good . If you cant afford gas , you will demand up to dat , safe passenger rail , and use your car for vacations and leisure . just sayin

GoneWithTheWind December 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

We will clearly run out of fossil fuel someday but it could be 50-300 years or so. But here is the real problem; there are no viable alternatives. Commercial wind and solar use more energy (from fossil fuels) then they ever produce. It isnt too difficult for an individual to use existing materials and collect heat from solar or burn wood but for commercial power production the costs are just too great. Alcohol from corn requires about 130% energy into the process for a 100% energy output from the ethanol. When fossil fuel becomes unavailable in sufficient amounts then humans will have to reduce their numbers by 90% or more to be able to survive. It seems unlikely that 90% will volunteer to die so one can only assume the old tried and true methods will be used.

michael c December 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

You mean? No, not that, not the flu!

JaimeRoberto December 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Most of the politicians touting energy independence were really talking about North American energy independence. Canada and Mexico account for 40% of our imports. The Keystone pipeline would increase Canada’s share even more. So the required domestic production is smaller than what you are citing. I’m guessing that the politicians are counting on widespread conversion to natural gas to make up the rest.

village idiot December 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Jaime, I think you pretty much nailed it. To be truly energy dependant, we would need our production to go up to the 10 million bopd range, have most heavy trucks converted to natural gas, and build the Keystone pipeline from Canada. Very doable but for the interest groups and politicians. As for Peak Oil, the same people have said numerous times that we are already past peak oil, yet our production continues to increase although it could be much higher had the politicians not interfered in production.
As for markets, all commodity prices are set on the world markets, and that includes gold, silver, copper, wheat, corn, rice, sugar and just about anything we produce any more. So why should oil be the only one singled out? I think we all know the answer to that. POLITICS.

Donna H December 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm

The US does have more oil than the Mideast, it hasn’t been drilled. Our own shale oil sits on government land out in the mountain states and at this time costs $10 more dollars a barrel to extract it from the ground than regular drilling. There was a plan to heat rods underground and it would draw the oil from the shale. I made a 2 year study on it because drilling companies wanted investments and tried to get the cost down below $10 a barrel. It was estimated over 550 billion barrels just there alone. Unfortunately, the government owns most of the land (and has recently confiscated state land) and refuse to issue drilling permits for the environmentalists so nothing could be done. Even under Bush, hesitation to open up these vast reserves was evident, but I thought at the time it was for our own future use 100-200 years from now when oil disappears from the world market or used as an emergency reserve for a far ahead future war.

Since we can’t control our political climate and policies as we’d like to, we will have to make do or create our own innovations for energy solutions.

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