Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The State Of Our Energy Union Is Stronger Than In 40 Years

As President Obama gives tonight the State of the Union Address, the state of our energy union is stronger than anytime in 40 years. America's domestic energy resources are bountiful, diverse, cleaner, and affordable.

Just consider these 10 energy facts:

1. US energy related carbon emissions fell from over 6 billion tons annually in 2007 to less than 5.3 billion tons in 2012, and toxic air emissions from energy production are plummeting as a result of more natural gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and pollution controls on coal plants.
2. Oil imports in December 2012 fell to 1997 levels.
3. Oil consumption currently is at 2000 or lower levels, though our GDP is much bigger than in 2000.
4. Domestic gas production set record levels in 2011 and 2012, and America became the largest producer of natural gas in the world.
5. Domestic oil production surged toward 7 million barrels per day, reaching the highest levels in nearly 20 years.
6. Total US Energy consumption declined 6.4% from 2007 to 2012, even though GDP and population in 2012 was bigger than in 2007.
7. Wind generation capacity skyrocketed from 25,000 megawatts in 2008 to 60,000 megawatts in 2012, with a record 13,000 megawatts installed just in 2012.
8. Solar generation capacity increased 14 times, rising from 500 megawatts in 2008 to 7,000 megawatts in 2012, with a record 3,000 megawatts installed in 2012.
9. Solar costs plummeted by up to 80% from 2006 to 2012, and wind also cut costs significantly, making both solar and wind increasingly cost competitive.
10. Natural gas, coal, and electricity prices all either fell or were essentially stable.  Oil prices measured from June, 2008 to today also declined, though gasoline costs in 2012 set a record high for a whole year.

Biodiesel, ethanol, and nuclear reached in the last 3 year record production levels.  Electric vehicles, hybrids, and natural gas vehicles are taking to the road in growing numbers and offer a means of curtailing oil imports and consumption further. 

Despite improving oil substitutes, increasing domestic oil production, and falling oil consumption, the high price of oil and oil's status as still America's top energy source remain energy threats to our economic and national security.  Though oil imports are falling, America still imports about 40% of the oil consumed here, and our economy shudders whenever gasoline prices near $4 per gallon.

While challenges remain, America's energy independence grows and the clean energy revolution of energy efficiency and renewable energy gallops forward.  The state of our energy union is, indeed, stronger than anytime in 40 years.


  1. It just doesn't seem right - on a first sniff - that U.S. energy use between 2007-2012 has shrunk primarily because of increased energy-efficiency - which is what that report claims. Ok, there have been important policy changes to promote energy efficiency especially at the state level that matches this time frame pretty well (although some of those changes began in 2004). But the recession is surely the more important explanation for falling US energy usage - consider ...
    1) for the first time ever the number of Americans per household went up during this time frame so fewer households to heat etc. then during the peak of the housing boom in 2007 (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/04/22/census-2010-household-size-trends/)
    2) although GDP has gone up during this time frame, capacity utilization went down suggesting that the GDP growth was probably the result of companies selling stuff they had already made which obviously takes less energy than actually making the stuff (http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TCU/)
    3) maybe even a rise in inequality - GDP is growing but the income benefits of this growth has gone mostly to the top 1% (93% of real income gains in 2010 for instance went to top 1%) who tend to hoard rather than spend (case in point - us companies are sitting on $5 trillion in cash vs. 3.8 trillion in 2007) so US consumer spending has fallen for energy-intensive stuff (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/10/28/changes-in-u-s-consumer-spending-2007-2010/)

    1. Thank you for the comment. High price of gasoline and rising vehicle fuel efficiency standards are driving reductions in oil usage. I would say those changes are not driven by the dive in GDP from 2007 to June 30, 2009. The stimulus also put lots of money into energy efficiency in lots of different ways. Certainly the decline in usage in 2008-2009 was significantly the result of the near depression. At this point with GDP restored and usage back to about 2000 levels, it seems that structural changes are predominant. That does not mean this trend necessarily continues. For it to do so, policy and pricing will have to continue to drive efficiency.

  2. John, just recommended your blog with some critical comments here: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/its-energy-democracy-not-energy-independence-stupid/150/537/60517/.

    1. I recently posted about the skyrocketing number of Americans that have chiefly solar at their homes or businesses and are "net metering." About 40% of all US solar is behind the meter or on a home or business.

    2. Also thank you for the recommendation and the thoughtful post.