Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Full Cost of Oil in America

The cause and effect how we use oil in American reveals both triumph and tragedy. Petroleum has been both a blessing and a curse for America. We comprise less than 5 percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of all oil produced or about 20 million barrels or 840 million gallons. Since 1751 when the Industrial Revolution began we used the amount of fossil fuels burned that is equivalent to all plant growth on Earth for the last 13,300 years. We use this black gold there's no end to the stuff, though experts estimate we've got 50-100 years' supply left at current consumption rates.

The world is currently consuming oil at the rate of 30.2 billion barrels per year. Based on the forecasts 50 to 100 years forecast is our global supply. We, Americans consume about 20.6 million barrels of petroleum per day (7.5 billion barrels per year). Currently, about 70% of the petroleum we consume is used for transportation. Light duty vehicles and freight trucks take the largest share while aircraft take less. However, from the standpoint of fuel efficiency, aircraft are the least efficient while light duty vehicles are the most efficient. However, overall fuel consumption increasing by almost 7 million barrels per day with only slight changes in the distribution of use.

The advancement of electric cars and hybrids will significantly effect on petroleum consumption. All-electric vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries can help most to reduce oil consumption, because only 2% of our electricity is generated from oil. Also, there may be some technology improvements in diesel-powered freight trucks,

Some Americans believe it is time for us to drill up north. However, even at full production in 2020 or beyond, proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to produce 800,000 barrels of oil daily, 0.7 percent of global production. Estimates of undiscovered oil, has been estimated by experts to amount to 39.1 billion barrels including reserves in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the restricted areas of the Lower 48 States. At our present rate of consumption, these reserves would supply our needs for a little over 5 years.

In the U.S. is a good example of what is going to happen to many others in the world. We are currently depending on other countries to supply us with 66% of the oil we need. It is believed we have passed our peak of oil production in 1970’s or 80’s. Presently our petroleum comes from: USA Petroleum Production-34%; Petroleum Imports from OPEC-27% ; Non-OPEC Petroleum Imports-39% (Canada, Mexico, Russia, etc.)

There is a price for using oil besides impacting climate change. Exploration, development, production, product treatment, and waste management activities associated with oil and gas production projects can have a variety of impacts on the environment. There is the one trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA.

Oil extraction results in the destruction or alteration of wildlife habitats, erosion, sedimentation, pollutant loading of groundwater and surface water from product and/or waste leaks and spills, groundwater contamination from communication between production or waste injection zones and underground sources of drinking water, release of hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide to the atmosphere, and decreased soil productivity from land spreading and/or releases of reserve/mud pit contents. While oil and gas professionals have developed practices that have reduced the generation of waste to avoid such environmental catastrophes. Also there has been improved economics of drilling and production operations leading to safer operations.

In the United States alone, more than 2 million wells have been drilled in the search for oil and gas since the first few successful wells in the mid 1800s. Of these wells (averaging about 1000 meters in depth but ranging to as much as 8000 meters), only about 1 exploratory well in 10 has found oil in sufficient quantities to justify production; and 1 in 50 has found enough oil to repay its total costs. Increased shortages will force new searches for oil and gas into more remote and hostile environments. Some drilling may not be offset by profits reaped by actual oil and gas discovery. The difficulty of finding oil and gas now is finding it in pores of rocks as a mixture of oil, salty water, and natural gas. The oil clings tightly to the pores of the rock to resist even the most elaborate schemes to get it out.

Just from the American consumer, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and 500 plus million oil filters are lost yearly in the United States (each containing around seven ounces of oil). The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is not the best test since it was designed for municipal landfills. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

For over a century Americans have greatly benefited from oil. Now the question is how we find alternative from this dwindling natural resource and how will this transition impact our economy. The future holds what complexity, expense, and the environmental impact of increased exploratory drilling will result. Americans we will be increasingly learn of the full cost of oil to our country.

Monday, May 12, 2008

America- Green Is Lean

"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." Senator Gaylord Nelson

As oil peaks, food prices rise and our dollar falls, Americans now must reinvent themselves. Jared Diamond writes about in his book, “Collapse” the fragile legacy we are leaving our future generations. America is awakening that environmental work is not just a global priority, however, a necessity for the well being for future generations. Lessening global warming is just one example of America’s responsibility to address our ecological crisis. This is a wake-up call for a new relationship of renewal for Americans of all walks to become lean and green.

First, to renew ourselves we understand the price of most things and now we must show a greater spirit to demonstrate how we value all things. We are so tied to others in the world in thousands of ways. Second when we show our appreciation to our greater interconnections new opportunities become born. Such wise inquiry awakens to citizen in the priority of basic needs over personal desires.

Our American culture is at a crossroads where its very disposability symbolizes a form of terror. This is about limits and a new form of tough love called thrift. The very high maintenance of our material world has a price tag. A revolution is happening now in our nation. It is about the renewal of the American spirit. Do we just address human needs or question the very greed that threatens our future environment? Consumerism is dying since our debt both personal and government has spiraled out of control. Responsibility and freedom comes down to a simple economic term called savings. This idea of saving is all about investing in a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

It is not can but we must excel a new democracy that nurtures and protects our ecological life support systems. Both private and public sectors have made enormous gains yet there are looming tremendous losses if we do not change our destructive patterns. Now we face our greatest global challenge in our history. It comes down to question the very foundation of governing.

Governing must intend to nurture, protect, or defend individuals, our nation and the world as a whole. If we, the American people, do not start to plan, think and invest in the long term conservation then we will suffer from our political short term failings.

Such a shift will include exploring clean renewable energy, efficient transportation and agriculture, and the non-toxic production and protection of our forests, oceans, grasslands and wetlands. A more sustainable path will liberate us.

The new American Revolution is a global paradigm shift to define what economy truly means. Our Founders from our first American Revolution brought forth a vision to pursue happiness that is tied to helping our “general welfare". Now we must continue this revolutionary concept to the next level. Not just our rights and freedom are at stake but maintaining our existing quality of life. We have to focus on the bigger picture not just our individual selves. We as a society must become fully responsible and invest in many enterprises that foster hope for the next generation. Renewal comes when we less waste less thus stimulating future prosperity. “ECOnomics” is what is all about, saving, renewing and preventing waste. America- green means becoming lean.