The New Global Energy Thread - U.S. Per Capita Energy Consumption Plummets

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, May 8, 2009.

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  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    If you look up "hydrino" at wikipedia it goes to the WP Blacklight article, the neutrality of which is in dispute. The discussion section includes a NYT article from 2008:

    Blacklight Power bolsters its impossible claims of a new renewable energy source

    Blacklight seems to have drawn significant outside funds well past the angel investor stage, and their website is impressive. I think the trick is going to be finding reliable reports down the road of independently verified larger scale sustainable power generation.

    I get the sense that it is an elaborate scheme for spending venture capital money.
  2. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Entirely possible, but they have contracted to build several commercial reactors with this stuff to power towns and what not.

    They also claim that they have "independent verification" from Rowan University...anybody familiar with it? I'm not.

    Part of the problem as well is that the company's founder claims to have disproven quantum mechanics with his accomplishments, and that the Grand Unified Field Theory can be proven using just classical Newtonian mechanics. This is hotly disputed by most reputable scientists around the world and would seem to fly in the face of experimentally verified theories.

    Peace,

    V-03
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    A lot of these kinds of companies with breakthrough paradigm changing miracle energy technologies emerged before the recession as oil prices were skyrocketing and interest in alternative energy was stirring up investment frenzy.

    I'm not saying this one isn't the real thing, just that skepticism is warranted until those commercial power plants are operating at a profit.
  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    China Tops U.S. in Energy Use
    Asian Giant Emerges as No. 1 Consumer of Power, Reshaping Oil Markets, Diplomacy

    As far as I'm concerned, not that this should surprise anyone, competition over global energy sources will be the number one geopolitical issue for the remainder of our lives. Energy production and consumption is the co-traveler of economic growth. As a mature energy market, the U.S. is increasingly going to have to rely on energy efficiency gains, not per capita energy consumption gains, to meets its needs for economic growth.

    If you look at global oil production numbers over the past decade, it looks more and more like a zero sum game. We've been on an oil production plateau for many years, with a recent production/consumption dip caused by the Great Recession. Without dramatic increases in energy supply, the international competitive pressures over oil and other energy resources (particularly nuclear, natural gas and oil) are going to mount rapidly. These pressures will mount more quickly than alternative energy capacity can expand to relieve that pressure.
  5. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Without dramatic increases in energy supply, the international competitive pressures over oil and other energy resources (particularly nuclear, natural gas and oil) are going to mount rapidly. These pressures will mount more quickly than alternative energy capacity can expand to relieve that pressure.

    Not to worry, I'm sure Iran will come through with a breakthrough in nuclear fusion and save the world!
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    There Will Be Fuel - The NYT writes a cheery love note to our future energy supplies.

    Clifford Krauss sees a future of plentiful oil and natural gas supplies.

    There's no doubt that the shale gas fracking boom has sent natural gas prices plummeting. That's good news for winter heating for all of us who don't use fuel oil.

    There's also no doubt that record oil prices created an oil drilling boom in the U.S., particularly for off shore GOM drilling and that oil production has risen from a low below 5 million barrels per day to an average of more than 5.3 million barrels a day in 2009.
    But there is little evidence that enough new supply will continue to be found to to offset declines elsewhere. Even at 5.3 million barrels a day, U.S. oil production is only at about half its 1970 production peak.

    At the same time, the article suggests a five-fold increase in Iraqi oil production is possible. This is indeed the official Iraqi government statement about where they are headed, but so far, there is little sign of any of this tremendous increase coming online anytime soon.

    At 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), the country's production is considerable, but there is room for improvement. Some analysts estimate production will rise to 10 million bpd by 2020, while the Iraqi government has set a target of 12 million bpd by 2016. That would return Iraq to the ranks of the world's elite, as only Saudi Arabia and Russia are capable of producing more.

    It will be interesting to see how a declaration of intent from the Iraqi government matches up to reality and world expectations over the next 6 years.

    Despite being awash in new oil with the prospects of declining demand, oil prices remain at above $80 per barrel, despite having fallen dramatically in the last week along with the stock market, what would have been considered an extremely high price in 2007. The real test of Krauss's thesis is going to be the oil price over the next 5-10 years. Is it a return to $20-$30 oil? Or is it going back to $100? Gas at my local station just clocked in at $3.19 a gallon. Cheap by European standards of course.

    That said, the natural gas news is pretty good news, aside from the terrible environmental costs of fracking. The process uses vast amounts of water and is beginning to pollute local groundwater supplies with toxic chemicals. The lawsuits and investigations and regulations that will emerge from this vast gas play will grow, but I don't expect that to slow the boom.

    If indeed we have a natural gas glut lasting at least a decade, natural gas presents one option for mitigating the intermittent nature of alternative energy. A natural gas fired electric generator can come online very quickly and can bridge gaps left between wind and solar. And of course a natural gas glut will be a relief to consumers trying to stay warm in winter in difficult economic times.
  7. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Excellent article and commentary.

    Personally, I would simply get all the major US oil corporations and utilities together and do a "Manhattan Project" on alternative energy, which permanent tax exemption on corporate profits for the company that can bring us cheap, clean, safe, abundant energy.

    The motivation in the meantime? Suspend all corporate taxes on the companies for twenty years. Yes, the government will lose revenue, but I'll bet they'll be tripping over themselves in the interim trying to make the new technology work.

    Peace,

    V-03
  8. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Darth-Ghost and others have argued that becoming a world energy technology leader is key to America's economic future, and I agree with that of course. However it's accomplished, it needs to get underway soon. The chances of it happening under Republican leadership in Congress or in the White House are not good.

    The problem I have with articles like this one from the NYT is that the more people who believe what it implies, the less likely it becomes that a "Manhattan Project" for energy will every launch.

    Forty years of year on year oil production declines in the U.S. (with this tiny blip at the end in the face of record oil prices) don't offer much hope that if the U.S. drills baby drills in enough offshore locations and wildlife refuges we will somehow achieve energy independence. And if we base our planning for available imports on a statement by the Iraqi government that they plan to increase oil production from 2.5 million b/d to 12 million b/d within 6 years, let's hope we also have a plan B in case that doesn't quite work out.

    When we talk about lowering our absolute demand for oil over the next few decades, we also have to take into account our population growth from 300 million to 450 million people over that period. An absolute drop in demand implies a massive decrease in per capita consumption.

    We've had sustained high oil prices for the better part of a decade now, with one superspike as the real estate bubble began to collapse. I'm fairly certain we'll see another superspike within the next 24-36 months. Maybe that will be enough to help launch the Manhattan Project. Maybe.
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    One of the most interesting things about the Great Recession has been the change in energy consumption in the U.S.

    This table shows total and per capita energy consumption in the U.S. in btus from 1949-2009.

    Per capita energy consumption peaked in the U.S. in 1979 and then began to decline. Much of this decline can be attributed to increased fuel efficiency, better energy efficiency in appliances, spurred on by oil shocks. Absolute and per capita energy consumption increased every year from 1958-1973. The 1973 per capita mini peak and the 1979 all time per capita energy peak are related to the 70s oil shocks.

    In 2007, the U.S. hit its all time absolute energy consumption peak of 101.5 quadrillion btus. With the reception, absolute energy demand dropped in 2008 and 2009. People drove less after oil prices peaked, industrial and commercial activity declined, and millions of additional unemployed people consumed less energy overall. At the same time, the U.S. population continues to increase.

    With a growing population and an absolute decline in energy consumption, per capita energy consumption cratered. From a 2004 level of 342 million btus, per capita energy consumption dropped to 308 million btus in 2009 - a level not seen since 1967.

    Now that Chinese energy consumption has passed U.S. energy consumption, with its overall energy demand doubling in less than a decade, the declining dollar and increased competition for oil supplies keeping oil prices high, with the U.S. exporting coal to China, the question is will U.S. energy consumption ever again equal or pass the 2007 peak?

    Just an example of the scope of the problem, if U.S. absolute energy consumption holds steady at 2009 levels of 95 quadrillion btus for the next 29 years, but the population increases to 400 million as it is predicted to do, per capita energy consumption will fall in the U.S. to below 1951 levels to about 237 million btus per capita.
  10. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    UN Climate summit countries seem keen on a compromise on key issues.

    There is also a proposal being discussed which will look at charging ships to dock depending on how much carbon they emit.
  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    [image=http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist_chart/WTTNTUS2w.jpg]

    The good news from this graph is that it shows how China is out-competing the U.S. for oil imports. Just as their oil imports increase, ours are declining. China has done what no president in the last 40 years has been able to. It has put the U.S. on a path to oil independence. If the trends continue, within 20 years or so, the U.S. will no longer be dependent on foreign sources of oil.

  12. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Whoa Jabba, lay off the eggnog! It's making you optimistic!
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    It depends on your point of view. Within 20 years we'll no longer be able to source significant volumes of oil from foreign markets. We will be using 70-80% less oil than we use today. China, as the world's dominant economy, will be the world's dominant energy consumer and will have priced everyone else out of the market.

    I don't know exactly what a crash program of involuntary oil independence will mean for the U.S. It could mean we try to double or triple the amount of coal we burn to try to power an EV fleet of cars and light trucks.
  14. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Does the Middle East have another 20-30 years worth of oil? The bigger problem is when nobody can get oil out of the Middle East. At that point, you basically have a region the size of China with hardly any economic viability, a super-sized Afghanistan which will become a breeding ground for all sorts of nastiness.
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
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    Middle Eastern and Russian oil exports have two main challenges: very mature oil fields and rapidly increasing domestic consumption. Most of Saudi Arabia's massive levels of investments in oil production infrastructure over the last decade has been to maintain production of maturing oil fields. They possess the world's ultimate supergiant oil field - Ghawar. But it has been the backbone of Saudi oil production for nearly sixty years.

    The Saudis have been forced to development of their heavy, sour crudes, which are more expensive to refine with a lower overall energy return. A lot of what they describe as their spare production capacity are these inferior grades of crude that no one really wants as long as anything else at all is available for export.

    More significant for the Saudis is rapid population growth and increasing domestic demand for heavily subsidized petroleum. Eventually, the Saudis will have to stop subsidizing domestic oil consumption in order to maintain export levels. But even then you can expect Saudi oil exports to decline steadily over the next two decades as more of their production goes to domestic uses. It's a tough spot for the Saudi Royal family. Oil export revenues are the sole source of their control, yet domestic oil subsidies help buy political stability in an increasingly overpopulated country.
  16. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    Which is why we need a robust program focused on alternative energy development. Avoid the shock.
  17. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The challenge in moving from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources is that it mostly entails moving from highly concentrated energy sources to diffuse energy sources and in most cases sporadic/intermittent energy sources. The scales necessary for alternative energy to replace a significant percentage of fossil fuels are so imposing that not even China has made real inroads into its fossil fuel consumption despite heavier, more committed and more strategic efforts at implementing alternative energy than almost anyone else. China is seeing massive high double digit increases year on year in its coal and oil consumption despite what may be the world's largest commitment to alternative energy.

    The U.S. should have already had its 50 year alternative energy strategic plan in place ten years ago. Every year this fails to happen we fall farther and farther behind in a game which not even China has been able really to win. But at least they're in the game. China is not hampered by false beliefs in the power of free markets to solve its energy problems.
  18. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    Oil companies and coal companies have hardly relied on the free market to achieve their competitive advantage. They've relied on politicians and government. Whether it be in the form of early development grants, public land leases well below market value, or flat out early start up subsidization, the fossil fuel companies were heavily coddled by the hand of the state.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    Oil is indeed by far the most heavily subsidized energy industry in the U.S, outstripping ethanol by a wide margin. And that's of course one of the reasons why Americans have overconsumed petroleum for so long.

    We used to hear a lot of whining about how the world was going to need "another Saudi Arabia" to feed growing world petroleum demand, but of course there aren't any more Saudi Arabias. It turns out that the world has actually found another Saudi Arabia worth of oil - America's overconsumption is like the world's biggest oil field. And now, China and India are draining away our overconsumption to maintain their oil demand growth levels as world oil supplies have remained on a plateau for half a decade.

    NPR this morning declared 2006 as the all time permanent peak of U.S. gasoline demand. And that fits with our declining oil import levels. The U.S. is gradually being priced out of the market for oil to fuel demand growth elsewhere.

    Essentially, the U.S. and Europe are already living in a post peak world as of 2007. We've seen a massive recession, but not a collapse of civilization yet of course. Over the next five years, however, China and India will need to siphon off another 20-30% of our oil overconsumption. It's going to be very hard on western civilization. Not that we won't survive. It will be harder on the U.S. than Europe in the short term, since they're already far more energy efficient than we are.
  20. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Well, everyone always says how "hard it would be" to convert away from fossil fuels, but those who support alternative energy are at least willing to point out the light at the end of the tunnel which energy independence would represent.

    What will eventually happen is that the US will simply have to go the alternative route, for the reasons that you have stated, Jabba. The unknown is whether or not Americans will be willing to sacrifice in the short term to adapt in the long term, or if the nation will collectively gasp at the notion of temporarily becoming more austere for a possible return to our current way of life, albeit with a more sustainable edge.


    We shall see.

    Peace,

    V-03
  21. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    What strikes me as the new reality of America's place in the world is that we no longer have the option of maintaining our pre 2007 lifestyle. China and India's growth have essentially stripped us of that choice. U.S. middle class wages are stagnant or declining. For a decade, the middle class made up the difference by piling on household debt.

    No one is available to fund additional middle class debt. And whether the world will continue to fund our national public debt and the debt of the 50 states, and for how much loner, is I think an open question, but one that we'll see being answered in the short term by states and municipalities defaulting on debt.

    It will take the better part of a decade to replace our gas guzzling car fleet. Until that happens, we'll get fairly easy year on year fuel efficiency gains. I think we get far more bang for our buck right now by buying small compact internal combustion cars that get 35-40 mpg or more than we get by pushing an all EV fleet or expensive hybrids.

    It's the next round after that initial fleet replacement, starting in 2020, when we'll really have to make tough decisions like building out our electrical grid to support an EV fleet or implementing policy decisions that promote a wholesale return to public transportation. Ideally, that planning should be happening now, but it won't.
  22. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    We've talked about this before though Jabba.: it's not really as much about "replacing our gas-guzzling fleet" of cars. Yes, that is the most public face of petrol.

    But we've talked about all the things that rely on petrol and they dwarf car consumption. Cars are but a minority of consumption. A more significant use comes from industrial applications for, well, just about everything.

    I look at my own bedding industry. All the foams, fibers, covers, except for a small niche of natural products, rely on petrol. The manufacturing of sheets, pillows, foams, springs, heat tempering of coils in mattresses, everything is tied into petrol usage.

    And it's that way in many, many industries.

    Replacing the cars with less gas guzzling vehicles would be good, but it's the "hidden" applications of petrol that really make the difference. And those are structural, expensive, and will take more time. But it's more important in the long run.
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    According to the EIA, about 2/3 of all oil in the U.S. is used for transportation. That is the part that will make the most difference in overall consumption.
  24. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    But by "fleet" do you mean freight transportation as well or did you just mean private automobiles?

    I thought you were just talking private autos.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Ultimately, the long haul trucking industry is doomed. It's just about the most inefficient way imaginable to move goods around the country. The trucking industry supports better fuel efficiency standards for trucks, which I think reflects an understanding that continuing high diesel prices and sluggish economic growth will keep squeezing truckers.

    So I'd say both will happen. The trucking industry will continue to downsize. Consumers will buy more fuel efficient vehicles. For a while this will keep us ahead of the curve of declining available oil for import.
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