Energy Security — Not a Renewable Energy Story

I have just finished reading an article in Bloomberg News  titled Growing U.S. Energy Supply Alters Political Debate.  While I liked the article, I was disappointed by the inclusion of renewable energy rhetoric in an article about shale oil and gas drilling.

The first three paragraphs linked shale oil production to energy security and then linked renewable energy to a discussion of energy security too.   The remainder of the article talks about the changed political landscape that shale oil drilling has created.   So what’s my beef?

Renewable energy has very nearly nothing in common with oil production…..and they are constantly linked together by the press and global warming hawks.   Renewable energy is an alternate electricity source.   Oil is a transportation fuel.   Windmills may reduce the amount of coal or natural gas burned in power generation, but it has no impact on oil use or security of supply.

Security of supply is all about international politics.  Electric power comes from 5 main sources in the USA and they are all domestic.   As domestic supplies, foreign supply concerns are not an issue.

According to the  EIA (US Energy Information Administration) website

Notice, petroleum at less than 1% of supply.

Here is data for the first half of 2012, released last month by the EIA.

  • Coal                                 35.4%
  • Natural Gas                  30.4%
  • Nuclear                           19.5%
  • Hydro                                7.9%
  • Wind                                  3.8%

Coal is fading, natural gas is coming on strong, and wind is a small but growing part of the story.  Solar….forget about it.

Energy independence is all about imported oil   How do we reduce our reliance on foreign supplies?  Lets take a peek at the Bloomberg article.  The very first paragraph has problems.

Ever since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the US has been obsessed with energy security , including the desire to rely less on foreign oil and produce as much as possible at home.

Supply has never been the issue it should be in the USA.  Every President since Nixon has talked the good story…but domestic energy production  is now and always has been a secondary issue.  Production peaked 40 years ago and had been in steady decline until shale oil showed up in 2009.

USA Oil energy policy has been a story of a country attempting to protect foreign supply while arguing wildly about when and where oil should and could be produced locally.  ANWR, the coast of California, the Arctic Ocean, offshore in Florida; the notion that we would produce as much as possible at home is wrong.  There is no national consensus on this issue and there never has been.

The next paragraph sets the link between oil and gas and alternative sources of energy with the following statement

For just as long, the energy debate in the presidential election years has been over the need to take better advantage of our own natural resources: extracting more oil, gas and coal, on the one hand, or promoting conservation along with alternatives such as solar and wind power.

Conservation is a big part of our oil independence strategy, but wind and solar are not.   The third paragraph continues the link between energy security and renewable energy  and makes it sound much more important than it really is:

Discoveries of shale deposits and the rise of new energy technologies have reshaped the energy marketplace.  Big increases in renewable energy as well as domestic oil and gas production — combined with a declining market share of coal — change the terms of the old production-verses- conservation debate.

Big increases in renewable energy?   Sure.  But from a small base.   Renewable energy plays only a minor role in energy supply(see chart above).  The article intentionally makes renewable sources sound more important than they are and then incorrectly links them to the production-verses- conservation debate.

My only other complaint about the article is that it underplays the importance of natural gas in the renewable energy debate.   Natural gas is abundant and clean and could be used as a transportation fuel too.   Natural gas prices have collapsed, accelerating the switch from coal to natural gas and slowing the need for other clean choices…..Wow….another blog subject….stay tuned….

One response to “Energy Security — Not a Renewable Energy Story

  1. i love the climate Swag

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