Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Misleading Ad from ExxonMobil

Today’s NY Times carried an ad from ExxonMobil that perpetuates a myth about US energy independence.  The ad featured appears on two pages.  On the first it asks where the US gets most of its energy, and answers it two pages down, from the US itself.  It says, “New technologies have unlocked abundant resources right here.”  The statement falsely gives the impression that were it not for the new technologies, most of the US energy would have come from foreign sources. 
The US has always obtained most of its energy from domestic sources of coal, oil, and natural gas, and to a less extent from nuclear and hydropower.  The US used to be a net exporter of energy, but since the early 1990s it has been a net importer.  The energy imports increased through 2005 to 32% of the total energy consumption.  Since then, energy imports have been on a steady decline such that in 2012 the US imports amounted to 20% of the consumption.  In absolute terms, the US imports decreased from 0.19 cmo in 2005 to 0.11 cmo in 2012.
The tight gas and tight oil resources unlocked by the new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have brought about the reversal in the trend, and their impact has been more pronounced on the oil imports. The US oil imports were at their highest at 13.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2005, but in 2012 oil imports were down to 9.7 mbpd.  (See my previous post of Oct. 15, 2013 for charts and other numbers.)