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Monday, May 22, 2017

Looking Back and Looking Ahead About OIl

With President Trump just leaving Saudi Arabia, it's worth taking a moment to look at the status of the world's oil markets and supplies.  Ever since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, there has been a persistent goal state for the USA of "energy independence".  America had to get to the point where it could not be held hostage by OPEC deciding to cut off production or sales.  Different approaches were tried.  We made our vehicles more efficient and cut oil needs, but the number of cars on the road went up so there wasn't much impact.  We moved our home heating systems away from oil heat where possible.  We transitioned away from generating any electrical power from oil (it's now much less than 1% of the total).  These changes, while helpful, were still small compared to the overall usage. 

The next idea was "renewable" energy.  America would be powered by solar and wind power.  This was rolled together with the claim of global warming and adopted as a main tenet of the left.  They believe that fossil fuel is bad and renewable energy is good.  The problem with renewable energy is two-fold.  First, it cannot produce enough reliable energy to make much of a difference.  Wind farms may be sprouting around the country, but almost a meaningless percentage of our power needs are met by these windmills.  Solar energy is faring better, but it too just doesn't provide enough energy at the moment to let it compete with fossil fuels.  Second, of course, is the problem that neither wind nor solar can power cars or other vehicles.  Maybe someday far in the future there will be technology that will let this happen, but for now, it's just a pipe dream.

President Obama pushed very hard for renewable energy despite all the drawbacks.  He even adopted some rather convenient lies to help in his push for the renewable energy.  Just about five years ago he told us the following about drilling for oil in a speech to the nation:

But we can’t just drill our way out of this problem. While we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil, we only have 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We’ve got to develop new technology that will help us use new forms of energy. That’s been a priority of mine as President. And because of the investments we’ve made, our use of clean, renewable energy has nearly doubled — and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

That was a lie when Obama said it.  Today, however, we can now understand just how big a lie.  America's oil producers are growing domestic oil production at a rapid pace.  The current estimates are that by the end of 2018 over ten percent more of our domestic oil needs will by satisfied by American oil than today.  That's amazing since American oil production has already risen by over 30% in the last four years.  Obama said we couldn't drill our way out of the problem and in the space of seven years, our domestic production will be doubled. 

This is almost completely due to fracking.  As you know if you follow any of the environmental news, fracking is enough to cause the heads of the enviro-crazies to explode.  Some states, like New York, have banned fracking and the wealth that comes with it for land owners and workers.  Other states, however, have welcomed fracking.  Pennsylvania, for example, has become the nation's second largest producer of natural gas and gained tens of billions of dollars in wealth and hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs as a result.  (Consider that the although they share a long border, NY has a very high state income tax while PA has a very low one.  Is that the result of fracking?)

Right now, American oil production is booming.  We no longer have an opponent of oil in the White House, so many of the idiotic anti-energy regulations of the Obama era are disappearing.  Further, oil producers have become so efficient in drilling wells using fracking that the oil from the resulting wells is now able to be sold profitably on world markets even at prices of $30 per barrel.  And the efficiencies are getting better!

The truth is that America really is at a point where we are becoming energy independent.  Indeed, we are the world's biggest producer of natural gas (again thanks to fracking).  We will soon be the world's biggest oil producer as well (if we haven't already claimed that crown.)  As exports of natural gas grow, we may quickly get to the point at which net energy trades (imports less exports) approach zero.  The most amazing thing about this is that is was done over the strong efforts of president Obama to prevent it.  Fortunately for all of us, he was as bad at accomplishing that objective as he was with all of his other objectives.

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