Sparked from a discussion on the great energy discussion site, OurEnergyPolicy.org | Does Energy Independence = Energy Security?, I share my comment here. I set out to essentially trounce the idea of “energy independence”, but eventually find my way, as usual, into the big picture of energy. “Energy security” is inherently connected to society; it must account for both addressing the supply – how supply feeds demand, but there is the unavoidable question of what should demand actually be, and what is the best way to pursue such demand? Serious strategic discussion of energy has to account for what has led to our current expectations about energy consumption, and how those expectations and understandings may change in the future.
- – -
Does energy independence = energy security?
I think one of the best ways to think about this topic is by thinking about an investment portfolio, and diversifying risk. In its most simplistic terms, it’s whether or not you have all your eggs in one basket – if you do, and something happens to that basket, then you certainly won’t be able to make any omelets.
More to the point, though – ‘energy security’ is essentially a matter of how many options you have to meet your energy needs. You are more insecure the less options you have, and more secure the more options you have, so it’s a direct relationships.
“Energy Independence” is essentially a campaign slogan or otherwise simplistic form of propaganda – in the case of the US, that is untenable, at least currently. (And no, it will not become tenable if Keystone XL is completed, and all federal lands are opened for hydraulic fracturing, and offshore drilling). Fossil fuels, combined, make up about 80% of the current US energy portfolio, in terms of sources. 37% Petrol, 25% Natural Gas, 21% Coal – as per 2010 Energy Information Administration data. The US cannot supply all of those resources itself, and since the 1970s has been declining steadily (Hubbert’s Peak) in domestic oil production, and while there has been a recent break of that trend, it will not bring about “energy independence”.
A personal favorite, and something I will be writing an upcoming article about…
Two weeks ago I read that Dubai will invest $2.7B in solar energy next year. Now Dubai is an emirate surrounded by the world’s largest oil fields and their economy is 250 times smaller than ours, yet they are astute enough to see the consequences of an oil-dependent economy and are willing to invest now in renewable energy in a huge way. Why aren’t we?
With personnel nearly the population of Chicago and a fleet of over 500,000 aircrafts, vessels, and vehicles, the U.S. Department of Defense is a massive and energy-hungry institution.
In 2009 alone, the military consumed some 375,000 barrels of oil per day, more than three-quarters of all other countries on the planet. To put that in perspective, Nigeria — with a population of more than 140 million — consumes about the same amount.
During the decades of cheap fuel and easy access, feeding this complex system spread over 820 global installations was of little concern. In today’s economic climate, however, the Department of Defense (DoD) has had to adapt its energy strategy.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement earlier this year. “Energy reform will make us better fighters. In the end, it is a matter of energy independence and it is a matter of national security. Our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum makes us vulnerable in too many ways.”
According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the DoD is taking aim at its annual $15 billion energy budget with a focus on efficiency and development of renewable, clean fuels — three areas that are pivotal in the race to create a more efficient fighting force and strengthen America’s energy independence.
THE AGE OF DOMESTIC BIOFUELS
As the world’s largest single consumer of liquid fuels, the DoD is taking ambitious steps to source alternatives. The Obama administration recently announced a joint partnership between private-sector companies, the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Navy, and the Department of Energy to invest $510 million in biofuel production over three years. …
The U.S. Energy Department cut its estimate for natural gas reserves in the Marcellus shale formation by 66 percent, citing improved data on drilling and production.
About 141 trillion cubic feet of gas can be recovered from the Marcellus shale using current technology, down from the previous estimate of 410 trillion, the department said today in its Annual Energy Outlook. About 482 trillion cubic feet can be produced from shale basins across the U.S., down 42 percent from 827 trillion in last year’s outlook.
“Drilling in the Marcellus accelerated rapidly in 2010 and 2011, so that there is far more information available today than a year ago,” the department said. The estimates represent unproved technically recoverable gas. The daily rate of Marcellus production doubled during 2011.
The estimated Marcellus reserves would meet U.S. gas demand for about six years, using 2010 consumption data, according to the Energy Department, down from 17 years in the previous outlook.
The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation stretching across the U.S. Northeast, including Pennsylvania and New York. Shale producers use a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to extract gas embedded in the rock.
The Department of Defense (DoD) could generate 7,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy—equivalent to the output of seven nuclear power plants—on four military bases located in the California desert, according to a study released today by DoD’s Office of Installations and Environment. The year-long study, conducted by the consultancy ICF International, looked at seven military bases in California and two in Nevada. It finds that, even though 96 percent of the surface area of the nine bases is unsuited for solar development because of military use, endangered species and other factors, the solar-compatible area is nevertheless large enough to generate more than 30 times the electricity consumed by the California bases, or about 25 percent of the renewable energy that the State of California is requiring utilities to use by 2015.
US Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (via CFR.org quote of the day)