Energy Projects Seem Less Urgent in A Post-Energy-Crisis World
- Sep 18, 2013 2:00 am GMT
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- Rather than being another component of an ongoing energy crisis, opposition to various energy projects points to the alleviation of a decades-long string of US energy crises.
- The audience for concerns about pipelines and fracking would be much smaller if oil were still at $145 per barrel and natural gas over $10 per million BTUs.
To someone living in 1974, during the first energy crisis of the last 40 years, the idea of mass protests to block a pipeline for importing crude oil from Canada would have seemed incomprehensible. Our environmental awareness has expanded in the interim, along with new channels for exchanging information, including “enduring misconceptions“. Yet the current opposition to so many different energy projects–natural gas drilling, long-distance transmission lines and even wind farms–can also be viewed as an unintended consequence of recent energy successes on a broad front.
The alleviation of what seemed to many a permanent energy crisis might not be obvious, because it has crept up on us. But consider a few of the big-picture elements that have changed:
In crisis mode, US energy security was focused on steadily rising oil and later natural gas imports, while “energy independence” was a goal embraced by politicians but rarely energy experts. Cars offering better fuel economy were available but entailed trade-offs in size and performance. Today, oil imports are falling, the US is a net exporter of refined petroleum products, and public concern about Peak Oil is waning, as measured by internet search activity. Ethanol from corn supplies 10% of US gasoline demand, while other forms of renewable energy are growing rapidly, from a small base. The big question for the federal government this summer is how many natural gas export facilities to allow. Meanwhile, the threshold for fuel-efficient cars has shifted from 30 mpg to 40 mpg, offered in numerous attractive models.
Another way to gauge the success of technologies like hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, in shifting our energy landscape is to remind ourselves how bad we thought today’s situation would be, just a few years ago. In 2005 the official US annual energy forecast projected oil imports to increase from 11 million barrels per day (MBD) in 2003 to nearly 15 MBD by this year, due to rising demand and domestic production that was expected to remain flat, at best (see below chart.)
A different version of this posting was previously published on the website of Pacific Energy Development Corporation.