US Petroleum consumption

US Petroleum consumption
Originally uploaded by Heading Out.
Yesterday President Bush talked about his plans for energy. His speech was, I suppose, brought about by the increase in gas prices and the concerns that they will not go down. The attached graph shows how the gas is used, the units are Quads, and for simplicity you can divide these by 2 and get millions of barrels a day. Thus we use about 9 mbd in gas for autos and light trucks, 3.8 mbd for diesel 4.9 mbd in industrial use etc. (The graph and data come from the SAIC Peak Oil report - the web address of which is somewhere in a comment below).

Why is this relevant to the President's speech? Because the concern the public has is with the price of gas. This is particularly related to the price and ability to import enough oil. Yesterday he said "And the most important component of our strategy is to recognize the transformational power of technology." And later "I believe that the next 25 years the changes are going to be even more dramatic. Our country is on the doorstep of incredible technological advances that will make energy more abundant and more affordable for our citizens. By harnessing the power of technology, we're gong to be able to grow our economy, protect our environment, and achieve greater energy independence."

Good stuff, but where's the beef? You go through the speech and it is hard to find what technological breakthrough, that relates to helping with the price of gas, we can anticipate. Remember that the problem is with gas supply and prices. We currently do not have, in the short term, a real concern with electricity generation (apart from the small fraction of oil and gas that powers some generators).

But the solutions given include changing the regulations on nuclear power; easing the regulations on building refineries (and the fact that we refine the oil here does not reduce the amount that we have to import, only that we import it as crude rather than as refined product); and expediting the licensing of liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals - which is only needed to increase the ability to import gas. None of these actually reduces, and it may in fact increase, the need to import oil and gas from abroad.

The new technical programs that the President calls for are on Clean Coal technology, the Hydrogen Fuel initiative, Ethanol and biodiesel; wind and residential solar. There is also a call to increase the tax credit on hybrid cars and trucks to include diesel, and to develop superconducting powerlines for electricity distribution.

Now these are all good ideas, though I am dubious as to how much technology will be developed from them that will have a significant impact in much less than 25 years. (Which when one adds it to 58 makes about a lifetime). My concern however is with the 210 million automobiles and light trucks we currently have on the road. Where do their owners get some technical help for the rising cost of gas? What technical means are being developed to recover more oil from US sources, rather than depending on foreign ones? The price hike alone might make it economic to recover about 10-20% more oil from our oilfields, but with technical help it is probable we could be able to extract more - is there any initiative for this? I think not.

The lead-in to the speech used the concern of the public on gas prices, the solution was to rely on technology, but no novel technical initiatives were given for solving the gas supply problem over the next 7 years or so (which is about the shortest amount of time before ANWAR comes to pass, and by that time we will be seriously into the post-peak part of the oil supply curve anyway). I do hope this is still a "work in progress" rather than all we can expect in this initiative.
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The initiative is really tax breaks for energy companies. It's been the same thing for years now. The other stuff is just decoration that gets changed every so often so it looks new.

So I think that this is all you get.

IMHO, Dubya is using the same tactic the GOP used in the election. Take ownership of the issue, acknowledge it, flop out any kind of "potential plan", and then carry on with business as usual. This will let him finish his second term, and after that, he will not give one damn about any of this. If you think he doesn't "get it", you're wrong. EVERYBODY in my industry (oil) gets it. He is counting the months until it isn't his problem, and if another GOP hack gets elected, the same recipe will be used - own it, offer up some undoable but great sound bytes for the masses, then try and keep business going as usual. They cannot stomach this concept inside the beltway - it is simply too much change for them to contemplate, dem or neocon. This is yet another reason things will probably have to reach a crisis before anything happens within "gubmint".

And I was a Republican for 35 years........

Hey HO, Exxon just posted a $7.86 billion profit for the first quarter. Surely they'll invest some pocket change in developing EOR in the U.S. and additional refinery capacity.

(Ahahahahaha! Sorry, I can't keep a straight face)

I own producing property in East Texas and get royalties from Double-Cross oil company (ExxonMobil). They just swatted down a majot EOR project for our field, citing poor ROI.....

During depletion, no additional refineries will be needed. If you add up the scraps of undrilled oil around the US, (Californian coast, ANWR, Oil Refuge, etc) you get about 6-9 months of world supply dribbled out over 20 odd years.

We don't need to plan to subsidize drilling for the last scraps of oil; the stuff that can be produced will be produced at some point.

More interesting is what comes next.

Oil being a gateway drug...

Yes Jon, provided we are alive to participate...

If I read my magazines correctly most of the current drilling is in West Texas and the Rocky States.

HO: isn't the Permian Basin (which I believe includes West Texas) and the Gulf of Mexico where all of the oil is though?

JS: I like that, oil truly is the ultimate gateway drug...and the centuries that the country will have to spend at Betty Ford to get off of it are going to be filled with some serious detox.

HO and prof:

Permian Basin is far West Texas and a bit of the OK panhandle. The curent boomspots are for deep natural gas in East Texas, deep gas in South Texas, Gulf offshore oil and gas, Rockies oil and gas. But virtually everywhere there is a major shortage of personnel more than equipment. But equipment is next...

And I like oil as a gateway drug as well, Jon.

Terrific site. Thanks to both HO and prof goose.

There is something in the accompanying plot worth highlighting. Consider the portion of quadrillion BTUs of oil consumption dedicated to transportation. From the plot I'd put it at 25/38 quads as a fraction, or 66%. To the extent the 66% portion dominates and tends towards 100%, might one question of peak oil be more narrowly framed? That is, could we be talking about an alternative transportation question primarily -- not necessarily alternative energy questions and alternative consumption questions in general?

Yes there are balloons waiting to be popped with a peak oil "bumpy plateau" as a likely contributor, such as the U.S. balance of payments deficit and financial reality gap. Yes there are dark sides to such scenarios. But with occasional efforts at focus, could we be better at identifying scenarios with a little more light to them?

Could the demand for oil-for-transportation eventually prove more price elastic than we are giving our fellow beings credit for? On a reduced vehicle-miles basis, not just higher-efficiency basis? For goodness' sake, might people someday carpool more not just to save money, but with civic motives? Might better price signals (and perhaps consumer interest in point-of-sale information) lead to changes in the average distance food is transported? Might bandwidth in fact be traded for oil?

I am not trying to rationalize an easy way out. One of my concerns though, is that in looking at various "reality gaps" which seem to exist, we might internalize the assumption that people in general are inflexible and ineducable in regard to oil and energy. If that assumption cannot be questioned, in a sense it lends support to paternalistic and sometimes darker forces at national scales. Presumably, we might like to get beyond the paternalism light of declaring world oil a U.S. strategic asset, and the paternalism dark which appears to be playing a role now.

This is actually one of the caveats to any absolute statements. Back 25 or so years ago when the speed limit was dropped to 55 mph thre were savings (I'll blog the numbers when I get them). Europeans and Asians use public transport much more than we do (we're killing Amtrak for eg). The situation is not, immediately that bad. The problem is that it gets worse like compound interest. so we have to start talking about solutions , , ,

Even now, as Bush Baby babbles about "technological breakthroughs," his administration is busy destroying the last vestages of the American patent system. Like everything else, they call it "reform" when in truth it is "destroy and deform".

Google "patent reform" to learn more.

Whatever happened to carbon-fiber flywheel batteries for vehicles?

There was a Wired article in 2000, and a Discover article in 1996, but not much since.

The main advantages seem to be great energy density--at least four times better than lead-acid, with hope for significant future improvements--and very quick charge times.

The major disadvantage appears to be high-speed shrapnel if you spin the flywheel too fast. But the shielding technology looks like it might be doable.

If flywheels can be built, their energy-density would improve in step with carbon-fiber materials science, which looks like it will get drastically better over the next 50 years.

Is there some fundamental engineering reason why nobody talks about carbon-fiber flywheels anymore? They certainly look far more plausible than the so-called "hydrogen economy".

Actually, continuing with this "peak oil is a transportation problem" theme, how about a series of articles on energy-storage technologies? What other technologies should we be spending R&D money on if we're running out of gas? Which technologies are utterly impractical boondoggles? Which ones have a chance of actually working?

At some point, the rising price of oil will ultimately trigger market responses. What will these market responses be? Some are obvious--less suburban sprawl, better gas mileage, more public transportation, the rebirth of New England agriculture--but what role does new technology play here?


Step Back has a huge point here - hope it doesn't get past the group. I have 3 patents issued in the early 1990's. I attempted to file one about 4 years ago, and after I read through the other "similar" patents to be sure I wasn't stepping on anybody elses claims, I was sick.

Several of the newer issued patents (2001-2003) had not only identical claims, but they were all over each other in terms of actual ideas. It was almost like the examiners knew nothing about what they were reading and nothing about the prior art in their subclasses. The only way this could ever get sorted out is with HUGE lawsuits, which only the big corporations can afford.

Instead of filing mine, I am still sitting on it. You are better off going for a "first-to-market" stab than relying on anything out of the US patent office. Japan or Great Britain would be a much better place to file these days...