We are used to hearing about how far behind the curve the United States is on energy. Just today, we were reminded that Germany and China will gobble up our future since we have failed to invest in solar and wind technologies, in particular, photovoltaic fabrication plants.
And as for wind: did you know that “China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy.” That is not true either. Current wind generating capacity in the U.S. is just shy of 30,000 MW, larger than any other country, including Germany (24,000 MW) and China (13,000 MW).
What about biofuels? We are told constantly that Brazil has cleared the field of all competition in the ethanol arena (some of us wish they would, and take the subsidies and over-priced food with them, but that is a story for another day). Well, that is another urban myth. In 2008 the U.S. produced about 457,000 b/d oil equivalent, almost half the world’s total. Brazil came in second with 382,000 b/d oil equivalent.
Hardly Worth Mentioning when the Future of World Energy Is Discussed?
And when it comes to conventional energy – oil, gas, coal, nuclear – one would be hard-pressed to think that the US was a factor at all (no mention in the IEA’s review of future energy supplies). In fact, writing in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Prince Turki al-Faisal, former director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and ambassador to the United States, called Saudi Arabia “the world’s energy superpower.”
If producing 5.2% of the world’s primary energy makes it THE superpower, then what does one call the country that produces 15.5% of the world’s primary energy? One would call that country the United States of America. The U.S. produces more energy than all of Europe (10.4% of world primary energy production), all of Eurasia (the former Soviet Union – 14.9%), China (14.4%) or the entire Middle East (13.9%).
When listening to the amped-up pessimism of the peak oilists, the fans of heavy state control, and the pleadings of foreign governments, it is important to understand that the US has by far the most diversified and advanced primary energy system. While the U.S. is not at the top of every measure of primary energy production, the country is a significant producer in every important primary energy source, including oil (#3), gas (#2), coal (#2), wind (#1), nuclear (#1), ethanol (#1), renewable electricity (all sources – #4). The increase in U.S. natural gas output in the last three years, equivalent to about 1 million b/d of oil, exceeds the decline in Mexico’s oil output in that period. But who knew about the shale gas success amidst the din regarding Mexico’s disastrous mismanagement of its oil sector? And yet, virtually no mention is made of the role of the U.S. as a producer in discussions of future energy supply. Sort of like the elephant sitting in the room quietly, without notice.
The moral of the story is that markets only make news when they crash. Governments make news all the time.