Wednesday, October 31, 2012

America's Energy Posture Is Much Better Off Than 4 Years Ago: US Fossil Fuel Production Hits Highest Level Ever & Renewables And Efficiency Boom Too

While US consumption of coal falls to levels not seen in nearly 30 years and consumption of oil drops to the 1999 mark, US fossil fuel production roars, setting an all-time records in 2011 and likely again this year.  Mark Perry's data is a reminder of the enormous success of America's fossil fuel energy industries over the last 4 years and the politically-inspired hyperbole aimed at President Obama about a supposed war on oil, gas, and coal.

In fact, since 2008, the US has had an historic energy boom that includes fossil fuels, biofuels, wind, solar, and energy efficiency. As a result of intense competition with gas, US coal production has dropped but that drop has been lessened by record levels of coal exports in 2011 and likely again in 2012.

Non-hydro renewable energy is booming too. Wind generation has more than doubled since 2008 and will soon supply more than 4% of US electricity. Solar will reach 7,000 megawatts by the end of this year or 14-times the 2008 capacity.  Ethanol is now providing the equivalent of 10% of our gasoline volume.  Biodiesel is setting record production amounts.  And we are using our energy more efficiently than ever.

Is America better off in terms of energy today than 4 years ago? Enormously so.

The credit for that goes mainly to the private sector, the companies, the men and women who drilled the wells, built the wind farms as well as planted, raised, and harvested the corn that became ethanol.  But the federal government too did two things well.

First and very importantly, the federal government did not get in the way, with the exception of the moratorium that followed the awful BP oil disaster.  Second, Uncle Sam and some states provided smart policies that led to more energy production and conservation. The historic fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, much bigger state level energy efficiency programs, and increased appliance efficiency standards are just some of the measures that have accelerated America's improving energy efficiency that is a cornerstone to our energy security and competitiveness.

Of course, at least two notable energy policy failures are part of the record of the last 4 years.  Not passing the Natural Gas Act or the Pickens plan and not extending the wind production tax credit remains huge missed opportunities that will be decided by the Presidential election.

Governor Romney opposes both the Natural Gas Act and the wind production tax credit, while the President supports both.  Further, Governor Romney promises to repeal the fuel efficiency standards for automobiles that have been raised twice in the last 4 years and that has meant that a new car bought today is typically 20% more fuel efficient than one bought in 2008.  Governor Romney also promises to repeal the EPA mercury or air toxic rule that may go into effect in 2015 and that favors natural gas, nuclear, renewable, and the many coal plants with modern pollution controls.

Elections have consequences and that will be so with energy.  Today America is in an energy boom; energy efficiency is increasing rapidly; oil imports are falling substantially; coal, gasoline, and diesel exports are at record levels. Finally our level of energy independence is at the highest level in more than 20 years, with more than 83% of the energy consumed in the US is produced right here.

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