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The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

What You Need To Know About Energy

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In 2014, the United States got 35% of its energy from petroleum and experts project that the demand for this fuel will increase at least through 2020. In 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the United States remained the world’s top producer of petroleum, supplying nearly as much as it consumed: 34.8 quads, out of a total 2014 consumption of approximately 98 quads from all sources. Owing in large part to new recovery methods (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling), U.S. oil production growth in 2014 was the highest in more than 100 years.


Nonetheless, although the EIA projects that domestic crude oil production will rise from an energy equivalent of 19.5 quads in 2015 to 22.2 quads in 2020, it will fall again to 19.9 quads in 2040—only 2% higher than the 2015 level. During that period, a “marginal decrease in transportation sector energy consumption contrasts with growth in most other sectors.” According to the EIA, that will occur despite an estimated population increase in the range of 50 to 100 million, perhaps as a result of decreased driving per capita, improvements in overall vehicle efficiency and engine performance, and government requirements to increase the use of biofuels

How long can we maintain our petroleum dependency? Current estimates suggest at least for the next 25 years. Proved U.S. oil reserves now total 36.5 billion barrels,* with 3.1 billion barrels discovered since 2012. Extraction of “tight” oil—light crude oil contained in geological formations of shale or sandstone—accounted for only 12% of total U.S. oil production in 2008. By 2012, it made up 35% and is predicted to rise to 50% in the near term.

As of 2014, total world consumption was approximately 92 million barrels per day, about 19 million of which were used by the United States.

The EIA estimates proved conventional crude oil reserves at more than 1.6 trillion barrels worldwide. As of 2014, total world consumption was approximately 92 million barrels per day, about 19 million of which were used by the United States. But simply dividing one number by the other produces a misleading picture because new reserves are discovered and vehicle efficiency changes over time. In the United States, regulations such as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)  standards, which oblige manufacturers to develop more efficient vehicles, and research into new transportation fuels, such as biofuels, as well as the increased use of electric vehicles, are expected to reduce our demand for oil.

By 2050, the United States could achieve an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases and petroleum use from 2005 levels using a combination of conventional vehicles, hybrids, biofuels, electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and compressed natural gas vehicles.

* Proved reserves are not the total amount of a resource potentially available. They are the deposits deemed to be cost-effective to extract at present. The total amount of recoverable fossil fuels (or uranium) is governed by the cost of recovery and the price and thus fluctuates over time.

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