The myth of US self-sufficiency in crude oil

Guest post by Matt Mushalik who runs the Australian Crude Oil Peak web site where The myth of US self-sufficiency in crude oil was first published. There is a wealth of information and brilliant charts below the fold.

Google for “US energy independence” and you will get 134k results, “US self sufficiency” yields 10k results. Here are some examples of what the media reports:

In Aljazeera’s Inside Story, 10/1/2016, titled “How much support will Saudi Arabia win against Iran?” the delicate relationship between the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran is discussed with 3 panellists. The moderator wanted answers in the context of “the US is almost at a tipping point, is almost energy independent..” (18:45)

In the State of the Union Address 2014 Obama proudly announced: “Today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”. In the latest SOUA on 12th January 2016, we hear: “Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent”

On 16/1/2016, the 7pm news of Australia’s public broadcaster ABC TV had this snippet:

Let’s look at the data:

Crude imports

Fig 1: US crude oil production, imports and exports

The graph shows that crude production reached almost 9.5 mb/d in 2015, just short of the historic peak in 1970. But imports are still 7 mb/d. Exports were only around 500 kb/d (to Canada) due to an export ban (which was recently lifted). Let’s zoom into the period since 2007, the peak year of imports.

Fig 2: US crude production vs imports since 2007

We have several phases in this crude oil import history:

  • 3 year decline of imports due to recession as oil prices went up, followed by the financial crisis
  • A rebound when quantitative easing started
  • A 2 mb/d decline 1 year after the shale oil boom started

In 2013 the growing production curve intersects with the declining import curve at around 7.5 mb/d i.e. a production/import ratio 50:50. Since then production grew another 2 mb/d but has peaked in April 2015 because of low oil prices which hit the shale oil industry. Imports did not continue to decline but remained basically flat.

Fig 3: Import share of crude oil supplies (=production+imports)

Due to slightly declining crude production the ratio did not improve anymore in 2015 and appears to be stuck at 43%. Clearly, this is not “virtually self-sufficient in [crude] oil”.

Fig 4: US crude production and importsFig 4: US crude production and imports

In the above graph we stack crude imports on top of production and compare it with refinery inputs. The cumulative difference is only 0.3%
Let’s have a look where the crude oil imports come from:

Fig 5: US crude imports by country

Data are from here:

Around half of the imports in 2015 were from the neighbouring countries Mexico and Canada. Imports from Mexico peaked in the same year in which Mexican oil production peaked:

Fig 6: Mexican crude production and exports to US

The shape of the 2 curves is quite similar. Peak oil at work.

In contrast to Mexico, US imports from Canada increased:

Fig 7: Canadian crude exports to the US

Exports of conventional crude (light and medium) was around 500 kb/d for the whole period. Heavy crude, synthetic crude and bitumen from tar sands doubled from 1.25 mb/d to 2.5 mb/d. That of course is not a good record as oil from tar sands produces 20% more CO2 emissions than conventional oil.

US imports/exports of products

Fig 8: US product imports by fuel

Increasing imports of unfinished oils, blending components and gasoline as well as a surge in fuel oil (which had decreased after the 2nd oil crisis) since around 2000 contributed to a peak in 2005/06. An import decline of NGLs, diesel, fuel oil and other liquids brought US product imports back to levels before the peak.

Fig 9: US product exports by fuel

Much of the increase in diesel and gasoline exports started 2005, before the shale oil boom –  which began 6 years later in 2011. Because of shale oil being a very light oil the increase in exports after 2011 was mainly natural gas plants liquids.

Fig 10: US product exports by country of destination

Most of the exports go to Mexico, Canada and other South/Central American countries.

Fig 11 US product exports in 2015 (Oct last 12 months)

US product exports go to 100 different countries. However, for most of the countries, export volumes are rather small. 35% of export volumes are less than 100 kb/d (average 40 kb/d). Another 37 % are between 110 kb/d (France) and 240 kb/d (Netherlands). The share of US exports of all Netherlands imports of products is just 13%. It would require more detailed analysis whether such limited contributions would have any price setting role on global product markets.

US net product exports

As an example, we take diesel

Fig 12: US diesel import-export balance

Diesel exports (around 80% of which is 15 ppm sulfur) started to surge when the US went into recession. The steep growth period seems to be over now.

Fig 13: US diesel exports by destination

Data from here:

South and Central America received most of US’ diesel exports

US product trade balance

Fig 14: US product imports and exports

The US became net product exporter in 2011, growing to 2.1 mb/d of net product exports in 2015. However, imports and exports are totally different and cannot be swapped or offset against each other. Blending components for example are needed for the production of gasoline and are therefore a necessary refinery input. Thus, the product import dependency is still 800 kb/d

On the export side, petroleum coke is not a liquid, but the waste product from tar sands refining.

Fig 15: Petroleum coke (with its own environmental hazards)

Of course, total product exports of 2.8 mb/d are dependent on crude imports at the ratio of 43%. (i.e. 1.2 mb/d). Therefore, the US product trade is dependent on 2 mb/d of imports (1.2 mb/d crude +0.8 mb/d products)

North American self sufficiency

Fig 5 shows that half of US crude imports come from Mexico and Canada. As US crude production growth has stalled, North America could only become self sufficient in crude oil by replacing the other half of crude imports i.e. increasing imports of liquids from Canadian tar sands by a theoretical 2.8 mb/d, assuming Mexico could continue to export 700 kb/d. If these exports were to shrink by the past rate of 100 kb/d pa, the additional tar sand import requirement would be 3.5 mb/d in 7 years provided US oil consumption would not change. This calculation is theoretical because refineries usually need a blend of different types of crudes, not just heavy oil from Canada. So there would be a minimum crude import requirement from outside North America. And Canada itself also imports around 300 kb/d from outside North America.

In any case, an increasing reliance on tar sands would be an environmental and climate disaster.

In May 2013, NASA climatologist James Hansen told the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee on carbon budgets: “If we introduce the tar shale and tar sands as a source and exploit those resources to a significant extent, then the problem becomes unsolvable”

Saudi Arabia

Fig 16: Saudi liquids exports 2009 – November 2015

What matters to global oil markets are exports. Saudi Arabia burns an additional 400 kb/d crude during summer months in power plants to produce electricity for increased air-conditioning. So if Saudi Arabia increases production in those months, the world markets won’t see a single drop of that oil.

According to JODI data, Fig 13 does not suggest that Saudi Arabia stepped up liquid exports in a significant way compared to the 3 previous years. Crude exports in 2015 were even 100-150 kb/d lower than in 2012 and 2013. This was offset by higher product exports of 400 kb/d, especially diesel.

Note also that Saudi crude exports in 2015 were only 50 kb/d higher than in 2006!

Outlook: shale oil peak

EIA’s latest short term outlook (Jan 2016)

Fig 17: US crude oil and liquids production to 2017

It seems the project of US self-sufficiency in oil has to be shelved for the time being. 3 main shale oil regions are declining by 2.1% per month, i.e. 25.2 % pa.

From the drilling productivity report January 2016:


Monthly change

Shale region

Production    kb/d

New wells

Existing wells

All wells

Bakken            1,122 




Eagle Ford            1,217 




Permian            2,035 




3 regions            4,374 





So let’s go back to the introductory examples.

Aljazeera’s Inside Story mentions a tipping point but doesn’t specify of what. Maybe that’s the 50:50 ratio of production and imports. The US is now at 57:43. That is not “almost energy independent”

ABC TV’s claim that the US is “virtually self-sufficient in oil” is also incorrect. And the reference to Saudi Arabia’s role forgets that exports matter.

On the other hand, Obama’s speech writers are closer to the facts. Note that in Obama’s 2016 SOUA the term “energy independence” is no longer used but the objective to develop “clean energy sources” is mentioned.  The statement that imports of foreign oil were cut by “almost 60%” (from its peak) is correct.


Contrary to general belief, and mis-information by the media the US is far away from being “energy independent” in terms of crude oil imports. Maybe some may find the above analysis statistical hair-splitting but the narrative of US energy independence has shaped public opinion to such an extent that prudence has given way to complacency. There is a danger that wrong geo-strategic views are formed, especially in the context of evolving and worsening conflicts in the Middle East.

It is not clear why the media are spreading confusing, incorrect or even wrong facts on oil supplies. Is it lack of time to check statistics, is it parroting of what others have repeated many times, or is there a deliberate attempt to embellish things. Perhaps just wishful thinking? And where is the responsibility of the media? Oil is not about entertainment but the lifeblood of our economy. And last not least, biased or ignorant reporting leads to wrong decisions to build new oil-dependent infrastructure.

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25 Responses to The myth of US self-sufficiency in crude oil

  1. Jesus de Lucas says:

    Nice article.

  2. K Periasamy says:

    Excellent presentation !

  3. Rob says:

    In terms of US long term outlook are there any predictions for how long US shale gas reserves will last. Many people are saying peak oil theory is now a thing of the past

  4. Euan Mearns says:

    Matt, many thanks for this amazing analysis. This comment from a recent post….

    On the political front the USA recently attained it’s goal of self-sufficiency in oil making it’s involvement in the middle east less important.

    … underlines the need to set the record straight. I have no idea how and why the media manage to get so much wrong – not just on energy. But one thing is for sure, and that is members of the public are hungry for information that reinforces their beliefs. And this mis-information is readily transmitted by social media creating a myriad of myths.

    And there are a number of mantras that become established and accepted by the mainstream even though they may be totally wrong or only partially true. One such is the notion that gas is clean from which follows, shale gas is good for the environment, well for CO2 emissions at least. And so you will hear politicians extolling the virtues of shale gas in one breath while preaching emissions reduction in the next.

    Targeting unconventional oil and gas is the last thing that emissions concerned politicians should be doing since this introduces a large new slice of FF into the global inventory. Of course, if one adopts a stance of no concern about emissions, then shale is in play.

    Coal emits more CO2 than gas per MWh, mainly because of the efficiency of generating plant. Burn coal in a CHP unit and efficiency can be boosted to 70% or higher. But the mantra that cheap coal is bad prevails and I gather in Denmark, coal fired CHP units are being closed in pursuit of the 100% renewables goal.

    • willem post says:


      1) The bubble from 2009 to 2015 was almost entirely due to quantitative easing, which has now played out, without nations making adequate structural reforms in their economies. See URL{“range”:”10y”,”allowChartStacking”:true}

      As more QE would be irrational, I foresee a near-zero real growth in the world’s economy going forward.

      2) “But the mantra that cheap coal is bad prevails and I gather in Denmark, coal fired CHP units are being closed in pursuit of the 100% renewables goal.”

      The Danes have adopted a unique form of RE nuttiness. If their grid were an island grid, as Ireland’s, this would be the result:

      Ireland’s Power System: Ireland had an island grid with a minor connection with the UK grid until October 2012. Eirgrid, the operator of the grid, publishes ¼-hour data regarding CO2 emissions, wind energy production, fuel consumption and energy generation. Drs. Udo and Wheatley made several analyses, based on 2012 and earlier Irish grid operations data, that show clear evidence of the effectiveness of CO2 emission reduction decreasing with increasing annual wind energy percentages.

      The Wheatley study of the Irish grid shows: Wind energy CO2 reduction effectiveness = (CO2 intensity, metric ton/MWh, with wind)/(CO2 intensity with no wind) = (0.279, @ 17% wind)/(0.53, @ no wind) = 0.526, based on ¼-hour, operating data of each generator on the Irish grid, as collected by SEMO.

      If 17% wind energy, ideal world wind energy promoters typically claim a 17% reduction in CO2, i.e., 83% is left over.

      If 17% wind energy, real world performance data of the Irish grid shows a 0.526 x 17% = 8.94% reduction, i.e., 91.06% is left over.

      What applied to the Irish grid would apply to the New England grid as well, unless the balancing is done with hydro, a la Denmark.

      Europe is facing the same problem, but it is stuck with mostly gas turbine balancing, as it does not have nearly enough hydro capacity for balancing.

      Fuel and CO2 Reductions Less Than Claimed: If we assume, at zero wind energy, the gas turbines produce 100 kWh of electricity requiring 100 x 3413/0.5 = 682,600 Btu of gas (at an average efficiency of 0.50), then 682600 x 117/1000000 = 79.864 lb CO2 are emitted.

      According to wind proponents, at 17% wind energy, 83 kWh is produced requiring 83 x 3413/0.50 = 566,558 Btu of gas, which emits 566558 x 117/1000000 = 66.287 lb CO2, for an ideal world emission reduction of 13.577 lb CO2.

      In the real world, the CO2 reduction is 13.577 x 0.526 = 7.144 lb CO2, for a remaining emission of 79.864 – 7.144 = 72.723 lb CO2, which would be emitted by 621,560 Btu of gas; 621560 x (117/1000000) = 72.723 lb CO2.

      To produce 83 kWh with 621,560 Btu of gas, the turbine efficiency would need to be 83 x 3413/621560 = 0.4558, for a turbine efficiency reduction of 100 x (1 – 0.4558/0.50) = 8.85%.

      Below is a summary:

      Ideal World…………………………..Btu…………CO2, lb…….Turbine Efficiency
      No Wind gas generation………..682,600………79.864……………0.5000
      17% Wind gas generation……..566,558……….66.287…………..0.5000

      Real World
      17% Wind gas generation……..621,560……….72.723…………..0.4558

      Actually, Ireland’s turbines produce much more than 100 kWh in a year, but whatever they produce is at a reduced efficiency, courtesy of integrating variable wind energy.

      For example, in 2013, natural gas was 2098 ktoe/4382 ktoe = 48% of the energy for electricity generation; see SEIA report. This likely included 2098 – 2098/1.0855 = 171 ktoe for balancing wind energy, which had a CO2 emission of about 171 x 39653 million x 117/million = 791.4 million lb. This was at least 791.4 million lb of CO2 emission reduction that did not take place, because of less efficient operation of the balancing gas turbines.

      The cost of the gas, at $10/million Btu, was about 171 x 39653 million x $10/million = $67.6 million; it is likely there were other costs, such as increased wear and tear. This was at least $67.6 million of gas cost reduction that did not take place, because of less efficient operation of the balancing gas turbines.

      In 2013, the fuel cost of wind energy balancing was 5,872,100,000 kWh of wind energy/$67.6 million = 1.152 c/kWh, which would become greater as more wind turbine systems are added.

      It must be a real downer for the Irish people, after making the investments to build out wind turbine systems and despoiling the visuals of much of their country, to find out the reductions of CO2 emissions and of imported gas costs, at 17% wind energy, are about 52.6% of what was promised*, and, as more wind turbine systems are added, that percentage would decrease even more!!

      *Not included are the embedded CO2 emissions for build-outs of flexible generation adequacy, grid system adequacy, and storage system adequacy to accommodate the variable wind (and solar) energy, plus all or part of their O&M CO2 emissions during their operating lives; in case of storage adequacy, all of O&M CO2 emissions, because high wind and solar energy percentages on the grid could not exist without storage adequacy.

    • stone100 says:

      Euan, what do you make of David Mackay’s point that CHP inevitably reduces the electricity generating efficiency of power plants and that typically outweighs the benefit of saving the heat? “The true net gains from combined heat and power are often much smaller than the hype would lead you to believe”. His argument (with data) seemed compelling to me. Rather than the UK investing in the infrastructure of heat distributing networks, with CHP, perhaps that might be better served by Passive House standard retrofits for energy conservation (though that needs a lot of streamlining and development)?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        If MacKay said it, it must be true 😉 I don’t have time to dig into this now. Its true that CHP offers little flexibility. With customers dependent on hot water it has to be run when they need it. One advantage that MacKay probably doesn’t consider is that the hot water system can be used to store and circulate energy that is not necessarily derived from coal.

  5. garethbeer says:

    Agreed QE has been used to fund welfare from corporate too tax credits to keep pound-shops in business – a short term and feel good ‘everything is booming’ mentality feeding property and various asset bubbles. Loose change for the public, massive gains for the ‘superclass’.
    The cheap finance should have been used to build-out power stations, trains and track (we’d have power to run the electricification of the country including trains), more housing etc etc. Sadly this opportunity has been squandered on wind-turbines, bureaucrats, bread & circuses…

  6. donb says:

    On the other hand, a few facilities in the US being built for IMPORT of natural gas are now being converted for EXPORT of natural gas. And, gasoline in my area sells for under $1.50 per gallon. These are significant changes.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Its impossible to convert an LNG regas facility to an LNG train. Thats like trying to convert a cooker into a fridge. But the ships may use the same harbour facilities. So has the first LNG cargo left Sabine Pass?

  7. sod says:

    Very interesting analysis, many things that i did not know. Thanks!

    Some people are projecting a rising oil demand for the US:

    But the solution is that simple:

    use less oil, for example as much per capita, as the europeans do (that is about half, perhaps with a slightly upward adjustment for distances being bigger in the US than in Europe).

  8. Jacob says:

    It seems to me that the import-export balance of the US (and any other country) is mostly dependent on economics, not physical availability. When oil prices are low (eg. now) it is only natural that the US will import more and export less.
    Besides, all this “self sufficiency” idea is mostly a rhetoric flourish, devoid of any concrete meaning or importance. The US (and all other countries) isn’t self-sufficient in nothing. Not even in iPhones.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Don’t agree. The US oil imports underpin trade imbalance and debt throughout the world that are in danger of toppling the finance system. The old US oil production peaked in 1971. They deployed thousands of rigs to try and reverse the decline without success. So they resorted to oil imports and imperialism. Only now with shale and fracking has a “solution” been found that is about to go into 5th reverse gear.

      • sod says:

        i do slightly disagree.The situation in the 70s was different. There were no real options to replace oil as an energy source and oil also had immense strategic value (running a war without oil would have been a huge problem).

        Both things have changed. The US could simply half its consumption down to a european level and eliminate imports without adding any oil production.

        The electric car could seriously hurt oil imports and even eliminating the around 10% of oil heating houses by better insulation or solar heating could help a little.

        • yt75 says:

          Quite the contrary, at the first oil shocks, many power stations still ran on oil in OECD, and that has been an “easy” usage to get out of, making more efficient vehicles and speed limits being another.

  9. Jacob says:

    “to oil imports and imperialism” ? oil imports=imperialism? I don’t think so. Almost all countries in the world import oil (and an endless list of other items). They are not all imperialists. The producers wish to sell as much as the importers wish to buy, maybe more. Trade isn’t imperialism. America doesn’t need to use force to get oil.
    Fracking production is declining because of the low prices. It will pick up again if, and when, prices soar again. That’s how markets work.
    What we see in the graph also reflects economics: production rose and imports declined because of the high price of oil. The trend reversed itself when the prices fell (barely visible in the graph).

  10. I read hundreds of U.S. House and Senate hearings for my new book “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation” for Charles Hall’s Springer energy series (for the chapter on U.S. energy policy). I’ve started compiling the congressmen and invited speakers who say that the U.S. is energy independent. Even the governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper, who knows better, has stated we are energy independent (perhaps he is obliged to say this for the sake of the state he governs. I’m sure Hickenlooper knows that energy independence isn’t true because he hosted the 2005 Denver ASPO conference).

    This blather is driven by economic and political interests: oil companies want higher prices for their oil and gas. Politically, if the U.S. can convince other nations we still have oil to share, then Russia will be less influential, especially in Europe. And by only allowing techno-optimists to testify, Congress has plausible deniability when oil and gas begin to exponentially decline.

    The list so far:

    Serial No. 112-4 10-Feb-11 John Shimkus Illinois Rep I am an Obama skeptic when it comes to energy security. We have the resources available in North American energy supplies to be energy independent when we talk about North American.

    Serial No. 112-45 10-Feb-11 Richard G. Newell EIA administrator We are projecting an increase in both U.S. domestic production of crude oil in the next 25 years as well as a significant increase internationally in crude oil, so we at this point in time, for the next 25 years, which is how far our projection goes out, we don’t see a peaking of world oil production capacity

    Serial No. 112-45 10-Feb-11 John Sullivan Oklahoma We have the resources to drill at home and the American people deserve an affordable national energy policy that takes advantage of the fact that we have more energy within our borders than our nation will ever need or want.

    Serial No. 112-45 5-May-11 John Sullivan Oklahoma Rep 125
    Serial No. 112-45 5-May-11 James T. Bartis RAND researcher 90 years of CTL. 100 billion barrels, 3 mbp/d with just 15% of coal reserves

    Serial No. 112-128 20-Mar-12 Eddy Isaacs Alberta Innovates The majority of oil producing countries having reached their peak of oil production. Globally, reserves are being replaced by the more difficult to produce resources such as deep offshore, highly water-flooded reservoirs, tight oil and heavy crudes.

    Serial No. 112-170 2-Aug-12 Dan Sullivan Commissioner, Dept of Natural Resources, Alaska 100 A few years ago, many believed our nation was running out of the natural resources needed to power our economy. Indeed, since the oil shocks of the 1970s, a sense of chronic energy scarcity and vulnerability has dominated American thinking. But recent innovations in unconventional oil and gas extraction have upended the conventional wisdom. Hardly a day goes by without fresh evidence of the United States regaining its status as a hydrocarbon superpower. A few years ago, we were preparing for large-scale natural gas imports due to diminishing supplies. Today, our nation has by some estimates a 100-year supply of gas.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Ed Whitfield Kentucky Rep Today, we are going to talk about some very good news – the achievability of North American energy independence, and particularly oil independence, within the span of a mere decade. So after many decades of hearing that the United States basically reached the end of its reserve, as a matter of fact, as recently as 2010 President Obama stated in a national address that we are running out of places to drill, and he still cites the outdated and misleading claim that we possess only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. But this pessimistic view is being blown away by reality. And …now we have the chance to reduce the leverage [of OPEC] virtually to zero with North American oil independence. And not only can we talk about oil but we also could talk about independence in natural gas because of the tremendous finds that we are finding [in North Dakota].

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Fred Upton Michigan Rep In fact, predictions of dwindling North American oil supplies have been replaced with very realistic predictions of North American oil independence within a decade.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Joe Barton Texas Rep We have a possibility to be energy independent almost at any time we want to be in the next 10 to 15 years.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Harold Hamm Continental Resources CEO Over a century We now have natural gas reserves of over a century. I am here to testify to the policies needed to insure North American Energy Independence in the next decade. There are three basic policies needed to continue the march towards North American energy independence. There are several believers in peak oil. I wasn’t in that group. You know, there are still some people, I guess, that maybe are talking about peak oil.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Daniel Ahn Citigroup NY Chief Commodities Economist Given the confluence of declining consumption and growing production, and what is geologically, technologically, and economically feasible, we project that North America can potentially achieve energy independence (i.e. oil/gas net self-sufficiency) by 2020. American dependence on imported oil outside of North America should shrink or even be eliminated entirely. 2007 proved a turning point, with record-high oil prices above $100 per barrel triggering two transformative factors that proved the “peak oil” pundits wrong again.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 John Freeman Raymond James Energy Research Group America is already a major exporter of coal, and together with Canada, we are already self-sufficient when it comes to natural gas, and for the first time in over 50 years, there is clear visibility on how oil independence can be achieved….and we believe imports can disappear entirely by as early as 2020. We are the largest producer of natural gas in the world, the second largest producer of coal, and in the next several years will become the largest oil producer in the world. The future has never been brighter for achieving energy independence.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Mark P. Mills Mahnattan Institute Senior Fellow The United States can, quite literally, drill, dig, build, and ship its way out of the current economic and jobs malaise. The new reality of hydro carbon abundance makes possible not only energy independence, but also a credible scenario in which the Middle East is displaced as the world’s primary energy exporter.

    Serial No. 112-176 13-Sep-12 Steve Scalise Louisiana Rep I think a lot of us have been pushing to get North America energy independence within a decade. It is clearly a goal that we can achieve

    Serial No. 113-1 5-Feb-13 President Obama century quoted by Yergin as saying: In March, 2011, President Obama spoke about how “recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap” large reserves of natural gas – “perhaps a century’s worth of reserves.”
    Serial No. 113-1 5-Feb-13 Mary J. Hutzler Institute for Energy Research nonprofit think tank Oil 250 years U.S. NG 175 years IER’s estimate of technically recoverable oil in the United States is 1,422 billion barrels. That amount of oil can satisfy U.S. oil demand for 250 years at current usage rates or it can fuel every passenger car in the United States for 430 years. It is also more oil than the entire world has used in all human history. The technically recoverable natural gas resources in the United States total 40% of the world’s natural gas reserves. At 2,744 trillion cubic feet, it can fuel natural gas demand in the United States for 175 years at current usage rates, or selectively, it can satisfy the nation’s residential demand for 857 years or the nation’s electricity demand for 575 years.

    Serial No. 113-1 5-Feb-13 Mary J. Hutzler Institute for Energy Research nonprofit think tank Coal 500 years Technically recoverable coal resources in the United States are unsurpassed and total 50% of the world’s coal reserves. At 486 billion short tons, it can supply our country’s electricity demand for coal for almost 500 years at current usage rates.

    Serial No. 113-1 5-Feb-13 Mary J. Hutzler Institute for Energy Research nonprofit think tank Peak Oil is a myth The Myth of Peak Oil, Natural Gas, and Coal For many years, we have heard of fossil fuels reaching their peak production levels or at the verge of being depleted. The same is true for the myth of ‘peak’ coal. In 2007, David Hughes, Geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada, stated, “Peak coal looks like it’s occurred in the lower 48.” And yet, the United States still has the largest coal reserves in the world. Rather than depletion effects, our coal industry is faced with overly broad and restrictive regulations on the use of coal and increasing restrictions on coal production from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Serial No. 113-1 5-Feb-13 E. Harry Vidas VP ICF international NG 155 years, Oil 110 years ICF estimates that the remaining technically recoverable U.S. natural gas resource base is 3,850 trillion cubic feet, which represents 155 years of current consumption. The U.S. shale gas resource is almost 2,000 TCF, 52% of the total. Our current assessment of the U.S. oil resources in terms of technically recoverable resources is 264 billion barrels. This represents 110 years of production at current production rates.

    S. Hrg. 113-1 12-Feb-13 Jack Gerard CEO American Petroleum Institute EIA 90-95, ICF 150 years, some 200-300 years Six/seven years ago someone estimated [reserves were] about 20 to 30 years. Most recently the EIA has estimated that it’s at least 90-95 years. Other independent analysis-ICF, etcetera have estimated it’s 150 years, and there’s some who’ve believe it’s 200-300 years worth of supply at current levels of consumption. What happened today, and I can’t overstate this, what is happening today is unprecedented in the history of our country in terms of our opportunity to become energy secure and self-sufficient. Just think back 5 or 6 years ago nobody was having this conversation. Today we’re the world’s No. 1 gas producer. It’s now estimated through this advancement in technology, we’ll be the world’s No. 1 oil producer by 2020, 7 short years and surpass Saudi Arabia.

    S. Hrg. 113-1 12-Feb-13 Ron Wyden Oregon Senator For the first time in decades, our Nation will be able to rely on its own U.S. energy resources, especially new oil and gas development from shale instead of being dependent on imports from the Middle East and other parts of the world that haven’t always had our best interests at heart. This is a major change for American energy policy.

    S. Hrg. 113-1 12-Feb-13 John Hickenlooper Colorado Governor Energy independence used to be a catch phrase that people would throw around, but I think we are legitimately on the threshold of achieving it for the first time in my lifetime… what we’ve seen in the last decade is truly transformational. We are on target to be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020. Domestic development of shale gas and oil, homegrown renewable energy and efficiency strategies are leading us toward energy independence.

    S. Hrg. 113-1 12-Feb-13 Mary L. Landrieu Louisiana Senator 100 This is enough [natural gas] to fulfill our current demand, a little over 24 bcf per day, for over 100 years.

    S. Hrg. 113-1 12-Feb-13 Lee Fuller VP, Independent Petroleum Association of America NG 100 years Projections suggest that identified resources could provide enough natural gas to meet America’s needs based on current demand for as much as 100 years.

    Serial No. 113-169 22-Jun-14 Theodore E. Deutch Florida The discovery of significant energy finds here in our own country have set us on the course toward energy independence. The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be oil independent by 2035.

    And so on!!!

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  12. Tony says:

    Generally liked the article and it is a convenient place to see some stats on US production and imports etc. But quoting Hanson on the end of the earth and blaming it on Canadian oil sands – PLEASE.
    It would be useful for people to remember that all oils are not created equally. For example, you can not make roads and shingles with ngl liquids. That requires asphalt oils of which the US imports something like 800,000 – 1,000,000 barrels a month from Canada and this is only going up. On the flip side, the US sends well over 100,000 barrels a day of condensate into Alberta for use as a diluent for bitumen to make it easier to move. BTW this condensate is transported in a pipeline system approved under the current administration.

  13. Conrad Maher says:

    A good article and I appreciate all the work that has gone into compiling all of the well constructed graphs. With over 50 years in the upstream end of the energy business, I was always a skeptic of all the media coverage touting US energy independence. Reading and experience has led me to conclude that most of us know to little about geology, the widely varying composition of crude oils and how these interact to make generalizations about reserves and recoverable oil misleading and inaccurate. Most of the commentators are just to busy with their smart phones and equally smart conversations and comments to do the reading and research to be better informed about that on which they speak so confidently. I don’t believe it is done for political reasons. They just don’t know and will not make the effort to learn more about this vital industry that keeps the world on the move. We must keep in mind that many of these media people and politicians in the US do not believe in evolution, global warming and have no interest in understanding even the basics of science. Many are elected to public office from areas where the majority of the voters have little to no understanding of science. Some have an ox to gore or an axe to grind, but like many in the energy business, they do not know much about where oil is generated, trapped, discovered, appraised developed, produced, shipped, refined, shipped and marketed.

  14. President Obama was quite correct in his claim the dependency on foreign sources of energy has been in decline. The more narrow framing on oil, specifically, while relevant has less importance now that oil’s share in the US economy has also been in decline–as it has been in the entire world.

    The US produces more energy from all sources now, uses less energy than a decade ago, and thus is in the position to export the surplus. Total energy exports will have doubled by the time the Obama Administration leaves office, from roughy 7 to 14 quadrillion BTU.

    The macro implication have been, and will continue to be profound. With the net dependency position of the US–what I call the Energy Balance Sheet–having undergone a major restructuring, the further increases in energy exports to come will only take this net dependency into further decline. Next up is crude oil, LNG, and expanded NG by pipeline to Mexico. On the consumption side, the solar and wind deployment rates are impressive.

    No one is more surprised than I am that the first version of US energy independence is closer at hand in this decade. The data support is clear, we’ve gone from 30% to 20% and now 11.8% net energy dependency. We’re headed to zero–not next year, of course, but probably by early next decade. The enormous stack of marginal demand for oil that’s been competed away the last decade by public transport, a return to the cities, cultural preferences away from personal car ownership is truly surprising. But hey, we suffered a historic oil shock last decade. A change in consumption is in retrospect no surprise.

    There is no question that a rigid dependency on oil still haunts the US transportation sector. However, as with the rest of the OECD, every single data series confirms the peak of the oil-funded transport sector starting a decade ago. As always, it’s important to distinguish between Growth and Dependency.

    Final note: the USDollar is continuously supported now by these changes. More to come on that, as well.

    Gregor Macdonald

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The data support is clear, we’ve gone from 30% to 20% and now 11.8% net energy dependency.

      A link to a chart would be nice 😉

      This side of the pond, we tend to forget that the US is self sufficient in electricity and nat gas. The substitution of coal by wind and solar is political window dressing. Not really relevant to the energy independence debate. Apart from, if you let your coal industry die, you will be up shit creek without a p**dle.

      So how does the ebook thing work for you?


      • Happy to chat about this at any time, but now that wind and solar combined are on track to provide more than 5% of total power generation in a system that has very low growth, I don’t see anything political about that at all. As someone who has tirelessly poured through the retirements and new capacity schedules, the effect that combined wind and solar are having on the market is profound. As you know Euan, markets are deeply affected by action at the margin. Wind and solar are both highly relevant to the conversation and to the actual condition of US energy indpendence (as they will be elsewhere in the world as the two technologies come to dominate marginal supply in powergrids).

        And we didn’t let our coal industry die. It was a moribund industry prior to China’s supersizing of coal, and it died when global coal growth fell back to zero. This is about 7-10 years earlier than I expected, so I assure you I know what it’s like to be wrong. 🙂

        The US energy situation is stronger than ever–more diverse, more resilant, with the tail wind of better policy. Our political right thinks Barack Obama is Bill Mckibben. Given the supply growth from all sources, you have to admit that’s funny.

        The ebook worked well for 3 years, at a retail price level, but now I’ve had to move on to a higher priced product with additional writers, as the publication was mostly read not by individuals but institutions.

        Latest update to US net dependency balance sheet

        By the way, I wanted to mention how much I’ve enjoyed your site’s work on storage. I do pick up from you Euan that you doubt the capabilities of wind and solar power, however. Is that simply because they compose such a tiny portion of the current system? Because they have clearly crossed a threshold where that tiny share will not only grow more substantial levels, but importantly from an economic standpoint is effecting the economics of new power capacity.

        All best!


  15. Rob Slightam says:

    small point but petroleum coke comes out of normal refinery operations on conventional crudes with some of the ouput processed to form electrodes for aluminium plants

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