CHAPTER 7 United States Energy Independence—A Game-Changer


How realistic is the goal of the United States achieving energy independence? Some speak of it as if it is a foregone conclusion; some, as if it is complete fantasy. The latter is understandable, considering that every president since Nixon has declared the need for energy independence. For decades, energy independence has been mostly talk (politics) and no action (data). However, the game seems to be changing. Freshly unearthed supplies of oil and natural gas have sparked new hope for independence.

In this chapter we're going to cut through the fibs and the fantasies and give you the facts—the facts as they stand today, anyway. With any luck this book will have some shelf life, which will make for entertaining follow-up reading a decade from now. By then, United States energy independence should be a reality.

Let's begin with a question: Is the United States energy independent today? At a basic but real level, the answer is no. In 2013 the United States produced 81 quadrillion British thermal units of primary energy (Figure 7.1, red line) but consumed about 97 quadrillion BTUs (blue line). Primary energy is the raw energy source (such as oil, coal, natural gas, or biomass) that is used to produce the tertiary energy we use every day (such as electricity). The United States has been energy dependent since 1956 (the gap between the lines on the chart).

FIGURE 7.1 U.S. Energy—Production versus Consumption ...

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