Editorial / Commentary / Opinion
Robert Bryce: The Hype vs. The Numbers
The Hype vs. The Numbers: America Ranks First in Hydrocarbon Production, Consumption, and Reserves
It’s time for a quick fact check. Amid the ongoing maelstrom of rhetoric about how the US should quit using hydrocarbons and immediately move to renewable sources like wind and solar, there’s a widespread tendency to forget the enormous scale of America’s hydrocarbon production, consumption, and reserves.
Total Fossil Fuel Reserves
Source: Congressional Research Service / by: Seth Myers
Here are the facts: the US produces and consumes more energy than any other country. And as the Congressional Research Service reported late last month, the US also has the world’s largest reserves of hydrocarbons.
The US ranks first in the world in energy consumption (ahead of China.) In 2008, America’s energy consumption averaged about 46 million barrels of oil equivalent per day with 89% of that total coming from hydrocarbons.
The US ranks first in the production of electricity from nuclear reactors (ahead of France). It ranks second in coal production (behind China), second in natural gas production (behind Russia) and third in oil production (behind Saudi Arabia and Russia). All that energy production – combined with significant imports of oil – allows the US to produce gargantuan quantities of power. And it’s that power availability that has made America the envy of the world.
On October 28, the Congressional Research Service reported that the proved hydrocarbon reserves of the US total nearly 970 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The vast majority of that total (about 906 billion barrels of oil equivalent) is in the form of coal. Running second behind the US in total hydrocarbon reserves is Russia, which has about 955 billion barrels of oil equivalent, followed by China, which runs a distant third, with 466 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
America’s enormous energy production and gargantuan energy reserves, why, then, are so many Americans willing to believe that we should trade reliable sources like nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas -- all of which have high power density -- for unreliable, low-power-density sources like the sun and the wind? The answer, unfortunately, is that too many Americans are willing to believe the hype.
Robert Bryce lives in Austin, Texas and is managing editor of Energy Tribune. He is the author of Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate. His his third book, Petroleum Soldiers, will be published this fall. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by Energy Tribune, Nov 11, 2007. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers
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