That saying about a picture and 1000 words...

I'm promoting this image from the DOE that I put in the thread about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the front page.

I know we've heard and written here a million times before that transportation accounts for nearly 70% of our national oil consumption, and this image really hits that home.

The posting of this image was prompted by a discussion of whether it might be easier to ask people to turn their thermostats down a degree or two than to ask them to stop driving so much. I noted that it could theoretically be easier to do that (not sure), but we'd get a lot more bang for our buck if we really did target transportation. Besides, as fatbear pointed out, heating oil really is non-negotiable. We can't have old people dying in order to draw out the peak. (Note: The character who died because she couldn't afford to heat her apartment in Oil Storm was one of the more memorable storylines.) In this graph, as far as I can tell, residential and commercial heating oil is represented by the white bar in the distillate category. Overall, that's not very much, especially compared to the giant blue bar in motor gasoline.

(In a selfish aside, I look at this chart and think that hey, jet fuel really doesn't really constitute that much of our total usage, so I don't have to cut out my relatively infrequent plane trips just yet...)

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On the topic of dying for lack of heating oil, MaxSpeak had a great response to Steve Levitt's comments on Peak Oil, the best nugget being:

Do markets really solve all problems? Most problems? Nothing ever goes wrong? I guess it depends on how you define "wrong." For instance, Amartya Sen wrote a book about poverty and famines which describes how markets solved the problems of people having no money to buy food: they die of starvation, the ultimate steady state.

If oil runs out, sure there will be substitutes. How fast will these come online, if they do? How much will they cost? What will be the costs of adjustment? Will that be fun? Who knows? Markets solve problems. Solutions do not exclude freezing in the dark, a new kind of equilbrium.

Also, MSNBC today has had quite a bit of Peak Oil talk.  This morning Matt Simmons was on for a brief discussion of Saudi oil.  And just now on Coast to Coast there was a discussion of Peak Oil and and the prospects and plans for reducing comsumption in the US particularly as it relates to transportation.  It also involved one of the guests using the opportunity to bash Frank Gafney (the other guest and a leading neocon) and the administration's Iraq policy.  Good times.  

Well that's the main point.

Markets will correct, of course. The problem is how that levelling is made.

But the counter argument from the freemarketeers is:

"Market IS the best solution. Government intervention of any kind would only worsen the outcome."

But government IS already "interfering" markets. In fact there's no place in the world where economy isn't regulated by governments. In practice free market paradises are not seen.

What I'm trying to say is that that counter argument is a fallacy, too.

Anyway, I'm affraid that if the government takes no action, and in the end, PO is a global disaster, they will blame government because it didn't let the markets solve the problem with all its regulations already in place, anyway.

Fernando, you nail it:  There is no such thing as an uregulated market.  The amount of Government subsidies that keep major corporations afloat --in direct contradiction to the trend of market forces (e.g., toward the extinction of United, Northwest, and Chrysler, for example)-- is staggering.  And it isn't 'market forces' that are giving USA pharmaceuticals their immense profits, but the refusal of the government to use its bargaining power to bring down the cost of medicines for seniors, etc.  And what about big agribusiness?  The subsidies go to the big guys, not to the small farmers.  Yet the market force advocates say that it's the market that is driving out small producers.  Oh, and what about the defense industries.  'Scuse me.  And the highway construction business?  Duh!  If the government isn't playing a MAJOR role in how this economy (and the world economy) operates, then why do corporation groups of every ilk spend so much time, money and effort lobbying Congress and ensuring that X candidate gets elected instead of Y candidate?  
The chart does a good job of making your point about the share of oil consumption from transportation - it may even understate it.

Something close to 5 million barrels per day or 20% of total consumption is lumped into an undefined category "Other". I followed the link to the DOE site, which describes the four main categories in some detail, noting the residual fuel oil consumption in the US is at about 4%. There is no mention of this huge "Other".

Presumably a lot of it is petrochemical feedstocks, but not 20% of the total barrel. Some portions may be lubricants, asphalt and other products. This would account for use in industry and households.

In any event, to the degree that a lot of this 20% is non-fuel, it might be safe to say that a far higher portion of the fuel produced from oil is used by transportation. Maybe close to 90%.


Other would be mostly heavy fuel oil, but would also include naptha, asphalt, and LPG.  A heavy fuel oil needs preheating to flow and so is mostly only good for industrial heating use.
Anonomous, As my comment and the linked article said, fuel oil is counted separately and is NOT part of "Other". This is from the DOE linked article, descrbing the "Residual" breakdown:

"Residual fuel oil, the heavy fuel used to run boilers for power generation and to propel tankers and other large vessels, once accounted for as much as 30 percent of the oil burned in stationary uses, and 20 percent of all United States oil use.  By 1997, those shares had fallen to 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively."

I agree that "Other" would include naptha, asphalt, LPG and other petrochemical components, but these can not account for 20% of the barrel.

According to Lou's graphic further down the thread, LPG is about 10% of refinery output, so possibly feedstock, LPG, coke, lubricants, and asphalt could be 20% of the total.
Is asphalt a transportation use of oil? It's what's left after the diesel and gasoline go off, mixed with some petroleum coke.
I notice there are four sectors listed: Transportation, Residential/Commercial, Industrial, and Electricity Generation. Does anyone have reliable figures on the oil demands of a fifth sector, the Military?
Excellent question. According to this DOE source (scroll down to Oil Consumption by the U.S. Military Abroad, which is not all that we'd want to know), oil use by the military is difficult to calculate, because apparently the DOD doesn't keep very good records, and it depends on whether the oil is purchased in the US and then shipped over to military bases, or directly purchased from an international source.

In 1990 (old estimate, I know), the military abroad used about 500,000 barrels a day, and about 350,000 of them were purchased from US sources, "and hence was presumably counted in U.S. domestic oil consumption". But who knows.

I'll look again if I get a moment later today, but in any case, it doesn't look like there's a simple answer.

Please do follow up on this. My suspicion is that the military does not constitute a fifth sector anywhere near the size of the others, although this is taken as given by many commentors. I may be wrong and would like to know. However, since comments like the one above are thrown around so often, it would make sense to try to document this.
The DOE site that ianqui linked to says that consumption has gone down rapidly from the figures cited for 1990. If held constant, they would account for about 1.75% of US consumption and 2.5% if int'l purchases were included. Since they are now lower the military use must be less than 1.75% of US domestic consumption
Good point, Ianqui.

I've got to know though -- is this closing statement a joke?

(In a selfish aside, I look at this chart and think that hey, jet fuel really doesn't really constitute that much of our total usage, so I don't have to cut out my relatively infrequent plane trips just yet...)

If not a joke, this is a #1 class error in logic. The key question is the amount of fuel consumed and greenhouse gases generated by an action, NOT whether the action is a large percentage of total usage.

For example, Hummers represent a miniscule fraction of total gas usage.  Is that an argument for buying one?

The unwelcome news is that cheap-'n'-easy air travel is one of the first things that will have to go, if we ever start to take peak oil and global warming seriously.

Yeah, don't worry. It was a joke. Still, I've gotta keep my job, and that's going to involve getting on an airplane at least twice a year.
I did some calculations a few days ago (they're available on my blog here, it includes some fancy graphs) about how much oil we would save if we increased our fuel efficiency in the transportation sector. If only cars doubled their fuel efficiency (the equivalent of everybody driving a diesel Golf for example), the US oil consumption would go down by 20%. If the entire transportation sector increased their fuel efficiency by twice, then the US would save 40% of their daily oil consumption. There is an optimal fuel efficiency increase though, if you're just focusing on cars, then anything more than a 7 times increase in fuel efficiency wouldn't help. If you're focusing on the entire transportation sector, then it's not worth it to increase your fuel efficiency by more than 10 times (at which point you'd be able to reduce US oil consumption by 50%). The calculations were based on the fact that the 60% of US oil goes towards transportation and another 60% of that goes towards fueling cars.
Woops, I'm not actually anonymous

Inelastic demand works in both directions.

Prices are high, so the advantages of buying hybrid cars are quite large.  Even if we could replace every car in America in the next three years, we don't have to.  Americans are going to buy lots of smaller cars and hybrids over the next two years - sorry Detroit - and that will reduce oil demand a few percent.  

And, because the demand is so inelastic, that few percent will do a lot to hold down prices.

Silent E

Transportation is not only cars. There are also trucks and other vehicles. But everybody doesn't not need to buy a new diesel Golf. They could just drive less or use that smaller car they maybe already own. But they don't bother to do that yet.

And do you think the Europeans would manage the Peak Oil better with all their effective diesel cars? They will just drive less. Increasing fuel efficiency will help you in the beginning, with oil supply down 10 -20%, but  it costs a lot and changing all cars will take much energy, so the net effect is not so great. But don't worry. Oil crisis ususally bring recession, recession brings unemployment, unemployed stop commuting and use less gas. Statistics show that even a mild recession cuts fuel usage effectively. The rest will buy smaller cars because many can't afford bigger - if they have money for a new car. This is the easy part. The difficult part is coping with the recession.

If they manage more easily, it would probably have as much to do with geography and infrastructure that was laid down long ago.

Just one aspect: As far as I can tell, you can still get around many cities and towns by walking.  In my town half of our workforce lives more than ten miles away (guessing) and 95% of the town was laid out and built after the automobile took over, so everything is sprawled all over.  No such thing as a neighborhood grocery or other services, and while we could probably push zoning changes through in ten years or so, if the economy tanks it would be virtually pointless as there won't be anybody left but Wal-Mart and the like anyway.

We are 100 miles from a big town (over 200,000 people) in any direction, our groceries, mail, etc. all depend on trucking to get here (no rail except for bulk goods like rock and chemicals, passenger service ended years ago) and it might actually be easier and/or more economical for people to move to the bigger towns than it would be to secure services here.  

That's the pessimist in me talking, btw.

That's the wrong picture; what you want is a pie chart, not a bar chart.
I didn't generate this myself—it's from the DOE themselves. If you want to try your hand a pie chart, go crazy. But I think it might be misleading, because it would be hard to combine sector and fuel type into a single meaningful pie chart.
I agree with ianqui, you would have to either have a pie chart for each fuel/useage type or have a great deal of different colours representing all the possible combinations.
"We can't have old people dying in order to draw out the peak."

A staggeringly unbrutal thing to say, or think. Please, recognize that when the teeth of the real peak start to bite, this sort of ameliorism will be the first thing overboard. "We can't have people dying. . ." Please.

Please, recognize that when the teeth of the real peak start to bite, this sort of ameliorism will be the first thing overboard.

Hey, it can be just like in Logan's Run!  We can solve the "Social Security Crisis" at the same time!

It's nice to be called "unbrutal"...

I'm talking about a more moderate PO scenario in which massive conservation allows us to prioritize where most oil goes. But yes, if we end up in a Kunstlerian or Savinar-esque post-oil dystopia, then we'll be in a free-for-all and lots more than just the old people will be dying.

But let me take this opportunity to say that by participating in TOD, I've become much less of an apocalypticon than I was when I first started educating myself about peak oil. Having said that though, I'm not ruling anything out.

I'm an American citizen grown up and living in Europe. This Robertson ought to be prosecuted according to terrorist patriot law. He is a terrorist as bad as any Muslim clerk.

Such leader such followers apply both to Robertson and the US precident.

There is a growing problem in US where honesty, law and democracy are not respected as much any longer. As you re-elect a leader who lies to his people as well as the rest of the world and starts a war to gain control over oil - incorrectly calling it war against terrorism. All of us citizens of the best country in the world should be ashamed. By the way, the x alcoholic, gwb actually makes a mess everything he deals with including the blind folded US energy policy.

Sorry - this is a comment to the Robertson article
My favorite way to view all the ins and outs of energy usage is the flow diagram that the DOE likes to use.  The one for US oil is on my site at:

Lou, I think that chart is going to make my head explode. But yes, if I look at it long enough, I think I can start to understand it.
What a cool graphic!  
Wow... that's a big jump:

Credit cards soaking up gas woes
Card purchases jump to 70% of gasoline sales at convenience stores, up from 54% last year.