Increasing Energy Security

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There is a lot of discussion lately about domestic energy production and American energy security. For the Obama Administration, moving towards the goal of energy independence has been a clear priority since day one. When President Obama took office, the United States imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. The President has put forward a plan to cut that by one-third by 2025 by strengthening domestic production of our energy resources, making our homes and buildings more efficient, and transitioning to a wide range of clean energy technologies.

When it comes to domestic energy production, the numbers speak for themselves. Since 2008, U.S. oil and natural gas production has increased, while imports of foreign oil have decreased. Here are the facts: 

  • In 2011, U.S. crude oil production reached its highest level since 2003, increasing by an estimated 90,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) over 2010 levels to 5.57 million bbl/d.   

  • U.S. natural gas production grew by an estimated 7.4 percent in 2011– the largest year-over-year volumetric increase – and easily eclipsed the previous all-time production record set in 1973. 

  • Overall, oil imports have been falling since 2008, and net imports as a share of total consumption declined from 57 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2011 – the lowest level since 1995. 

In May of last year, President Obama outlined a series of additional steps to expand domestic oil and gas production as part of his long-term plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. More specifically, the President directed the Department of Interior (DOI) to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A), speed up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid- and south-Atlantic, develop new incentives for industry to develop unused leases both onshore and offshore, extend drilling leases in the areas of the Gulf impacted by the temporary moratorium following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and lease new areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Significant progress has been made in many of these areas. For instance, in December 2011, DOI held the first oil and natural gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill. The sale, which covered over 1 million acres, attracted more than $338 million in total bids – about $100 million more than average for Western Gulf sales over the previous decade. During the same month, DOI held a lease sale in Alaska’s NPR-A that generated winning bids of over $3.6 million and covered 17 tracts on over 140,000 acres.

The Administration has also taken historic action to reduce our dependence on oil by making our cars and trucks more efficient. In July of last year, the President announced the next phase in the Administration’s program to increase fuel economy, which will require a performance equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon for model year 2017-2025 passenger vehicles. Taken together, the standards established under this Administration span Model Years 2011 to 2025. They will save American families money at the pump, for a total of $1.7 trillion in fuel savings over the life of the program. They will clean up our environment, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program, while reducing pollutants like air toxics, cause soot, and smog.

These new fuel economy standards will dramatically cut our oil dependence, reducing consumption by an estimated 2.2 million barrels a day in 2025 (eventually reaching more than 4 million barrels a day as the fleet turns over), and saving 12 billion barrels in total over the lifetime of the program. To put that in perspective, it would take a pipeline that carried 700,000 barrels a day nearly 47 years to transport the amount of oil we are saving thanks to these new fuel economy standards.

Of course, the Administration has also been intent on developing and deploying clean energy technologies and positioning the United States as the global leader in the clean energy race. The Recovery Act invested more than $90 billion in clean energy, the largest such investment in America’s history. Those investments have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and spurred thousands of clean energy projects across the country. For example, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has already supported more than 40 clean energy projects that will ultimately employ more than 60,000 Americans. And because of Recovery Act investments, we are on track to double non-hydro renewable electricity generation from 2008 levels this year.

In short, the Obama Administration’s approach to achieving American energy independence has been a comprehensive and sustained effort, with emphasis on boosting domestic energy production, increasing efficiency, and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

But what’s abundantly clear is that there are no silver bullets when it comes to this challenge. And the idea, as some in Washington have tried to suggest, that building a pipeline is the ultimate answer to the question of American energy security and job creation is nothing more than a pipe dream. The truth is that just two of the Administration’s programs – the DOE Loan Guarantee Program and the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – will create more than 10 times the amount of jobs generated by the Keystone XL pipeline, which will only generate a few thousand temporary jobs. In terms of reducing America’s dependence on oil, the Administration’s fuel economy standards alone will save more than twice the amount of oil the Keystone pipeline would deliver.  

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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