Plugged In

Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

A Look At Our (Mostly) Independent Energy Future


In my last post, I described how the past eight US presidents pledged to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. None have succeeded yet... but by the time President Obama leaves office, oil imports will be lower than when he arrived, but as I previously explained, it’s not all because of his administration.*

Now let's build on that by taking a look at the EIA's projection on total energy production and consumption into the future:

U.S. dependency on foreign oil has been decreasing--and that trend is projected to continue over the coming decades. And it's not just due to the rise in domestic natural gas production. More efficient energy technologies along with rising energy prices have concurrently reduced demand.

The result? EIA expects a 4 percent net import share of total U.S. energy consumption by 2040! And that 4 percent isn't likely going to need to travel very far. For example, consider America's 'foreign' oil suppliers in 2012: Our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, provided well over 1/3 of imports alone. For comparison, we received 13 percent from Saudi Arabia and just 6 percent from Iraq.

The United States is looking a lot more energy independent in the years to come. And that's a good thing.


* Government policies since the 1970s funded advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (already available since the 1930s and 1950s respectively). Later, high gas prices provided market incentives to locate new wells on private lands utilizing these technologies. Most recently, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 excluded hydraulic fracturing from underground injection regulations. It’s a rare instance in which markets, government, and technology worked together with a common goal. And succeeded.

This post originally appeared at Scientific American’s ‘Plugged In

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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