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US Is Net Oil Exporter for First Time in 75 Years (bloomberg.com)
222 points by tim333 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 195 comments

This news is based on one weekly oil inventory report, which fluctuates greatly because of the timing of oil tankers coming in and out of ports. Each VLCC can hold 2 million barrels of oil, so a timing mismatch can make the report swing largely. I would bet next week the US is a net importer again.

That said, the US oil production grew incredibly this year. It will be a net exporter again. In addition, the US has large refining capacity, so it gets to export oil derived products which were counted towards the net (The actual crude oil exports were still only half its imports).

I get that, but given its the first time this has happened in 75 years its still quite a dramatic milestone, even if its unlikely to reoccur next week.

The trend has been relentlessly toward petroleum self sufficiency 2005. Here is the five week data table showing such:


The detail is somewhat overwhelming, but thenet import number is shown near the bottom.

And OPEC immediately counter-punched, lowering their output MORE than anticipated. So really, it doesn't mean a damn thing. We will be paying the same, or more, at the pumps. Trump had been asking them to keep it the same so prices would lower with the new US production, but they voted against that, with Saudi Arabia making the biggest cuts. Russia (not in OPEC) cut back as well. So, it seems it's a net loss for the consumers, but great for oil companies.


In practice our prices are down a good bit (20%?).

I paid $1.89 today in beautiful Columbia South Carolina.

Yeah 0.94 CAD today. I forgot it can go below a dollar.

The US people are talking about per gallon and you are likely quoting per liter.

I am. I'm not trying to make a comparison to parent. Just that I've not seen it below a dollar in a long time.

Still damn near 4 dollars here in California.

In order to make gas legal to sell in CA, it requires a special formulation and additives. Refineries have to be specially configured to produce it, so CA will almost always be more due to the smaller amount of refinery capacity dedicated to producing it. And that isn't even taking into account the various CA taxes and fees on gas that add up to nearly 50 cents a gallon.

We end up with oxygenated gas that supposedly produces 10% lower emissions per unit volume.

But it has 11-13% less energy per gallon, so one burns 11-13% more gallons to travel the same distance.

Prices in my nearby Costco stores are $3.09 and $3.05. The highest price I've seen in my general area is $3.75. If you drive around a lot it might be worth considering a subscription to Costco; depending on your usage it might pay for itself pretty quickly.

CA is an odd duck both because of its taxes and regulations, and because the oil produces in middle America do not flow by pipeline there. So CA pays the higher international price for their crude oil.

How do you like living there?

4 US dollars per gallon in China.

if the output is the same but America's cut is greater... doesn't that mean it's a net positive for the US? More US gas = more US profit? Seems like a win to me...

More profit for US oil companies, but as a massive consumer of oil and oil derived products it means higher prices than necessary across many large sectors of the economy.

Yes: good for American oil producers; indifferent for American oil consumers.

Even for American oil consumers, doesn’t fewer imports imply an expectation of greater stability going forward, since the price is more dependent upon just this country’s happenings, and less dependent on the happenings inside other countries?

Or can it be argued either way, e.g. that if the production was spread over more countries the prices would be less dependent on any one country in isolation?

>it seems it's a net loss for the consumers How is it a net loss for consumers that Americans continue to get subsidised gas? If you had to pay even less it would have been a huge loss for the environment. It is about time that you start to pay the real price for gas including the environmental cost for the emissions

It's good news environmentally. The more expensive gas is the less we burn.

Environmentally we should stop using gas, import and export. It’s been said for 40+ years and instead we’re celebrating these news

This is a misconception. Over time, OPEC actually LOWERS prices, not raises them. This is because oil has lag time from investment to production, so it has natural boom/bust cycles. If there was no moderator akin to a central bank, producers would eventually be knocked out of the market and set the stage for prices to rise to marginal benefit. Producers need reduced price volatility to make decisions, and also some producers have higher costs and cannot survive in low price environments.

We saw something like this is 2008 where oil rose to $140/barrel and people still paid that price. This can happen again once shale growth levels, and years of underinvestment in expensive oils like deepwater and oil sands bite.

Sorry, but once again Trump doesn't know what he is talking about. He majorly F'd the OPEC countries and allies by telling them he'd sanction Iran and then pulling back on it after they invested in production. You cannot simply turn on and off the taps for oil, and he doesn't understand that. OPEC had no choice but to plan a cut or else the market would have driven more into bankruptcy.

Edit: Also a fun fact - US shale oil primarily produces gasoline, so even if OPEC cuts we still have adequate supply of gasoline. But actually prices for gas aren't down much because of added taxes. The Saudi oil minister actually commented on that this week, that it is unfair that they helped consumers by increasing production (as Trump requested) but when crude prices fall governments fill the gap with taxes.

Hearing "net exporter" made me wonder: is there some inefficiency, at a company or state level, in how we'll both export and import the same commodity? Why does this occur?

Is this the result of a lack of market makers who will hold the oil (maybe the cost of storage is too high), so it's shipped to wherever needs it at that exact point?

I am not an expert, but one factor might be that not all crude oil is the same. Maybe refineries prefer to import a different kind of crude oil than what is extracted domestically (and likewise refineries in other countries are willing to buy the crude we are extracting here).

I think this is correct. Weight and sulfur level matter. It requires slightly different infrastructure. Also having import/export is strategic. If something happens to your local producer you've got a backup.

Yea I know refineries in a lot of northern states like Minnesota are setup to process the high sulfur crude that comes from Canada. While most southern states have refineries that process low sulfur crude that comes from the United States.

II don't know the details so my example might not make sense, but two factors are:

Shipping: no easy to ship from producing site to say NE coast, so they might buy from Sweden and Saudi Arabia, while producer, say in Texas might have a pipeline to the west coast and export to China.

Price/contracts: some large buyer (say refineries) buy on long term contracts and might still buy at prices negotiated when the US had policies restricting domestic production. Also, not everybody sells at market price, so you could buy foreign for cheaper than what's currently available domestically.

I used to watch Irving Oil’s ships come into their Chelsea, MA terminal on a regular basis, and just assumed that they were bringing something in from maritime Canada because it was closer/cheaper. The Boston metroplex is also served by a number of pipelines that reach New England, which I suspect also makes product from the other end of the pipes cheaper here.

I would strongly recommend not attempting to contract for or ship oil extracted in Sweden to the USA, or to anywhere else in the world. Unless you premise this on holding that Norway should never have gotten its independence 100+ years ago.

What is your motivation for this?

Are you asserting that buying oil from Sweden will somehow reverse Norway's independence?

Or that we should punish Sweden for having had the union with Norway?

Seems a long grudge to carry for a hundred-year-old "amicable and peaceful dissolution" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_between_Sweden_and_Norwa...

Like recommending the US should not have helped England in WW 1 because of the war of 1812.

Sweden is not an oil producer.

While Sweden has no oil production, they do export refined oil products.

Indeed that's the point, not being a producer of oil by extraction.

What's your point? You've made three comments, and I still can't tell what your point is. What does "not being a producer of oil by extraction" have to do with Norway's independence from Sweden?

The point is a mix of mineral and monarchical accuracy.

Norway is a significant oil producer and exporter, worthy of mention together with Saudi Arabia in the context of discussing oil producers (potentially) exporting crude oil to the US; not Sweden. Norway was in a (forced) union of kingdoms with Sweden until 1906, so someone referring to Sweden as an oil producer may only be somewhat right if 1906 had not happened. hth

So it was a nitpick. Here's another: https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Sweden/oil_production/

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Sweden has produced 8.4 thousand barrels per day since 2010.

Tiny, but non-zero (they remain heavily reliant on oil imports from Russia).

Also, Lundin Petroleum is a Swedish oil extraction company, which extracts oil off the Norwegian coast. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lundin_Petroleum

And Sweden does have onshore oil deposits that have not been opened for extraction - https://sputniknews.com/business/201703071051330296-sweden-o...

Note that dorfsmay didn't say "oil extracted in Sweden", you added that qualifier yourself. He also indicated his example may be weak on details, whereas you were explicitly striving for accuracy.

I read it more like striving for humor, not accuracy. Humor that would only fly if you knew the bit of history that was later explained.

Isn't that typical of conversations between hackers?

dorfsmay wrote "to ship from producing site" then gave Sweden and Saudi Arabia as example producing sites.

The only operational, limited extraction of oil in Sweden took place in Gotland, until 1993. The remnants of that activity have now become historical markers. The Swedish government agency of statistics reported in 2016 that there is absolutely no production of crude oil in Sweden ("I Sverige sker ingen produktion av råolja."). [1] Who should we trust on this, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or the Swedish government?

Not sure why all of this is so arresting.

[1] https://www.scb.se/hitta-statistik/artiklar/2016/Rysk-olja-v...

You could just have said "sweden doesnt produce/export oil" instead of all that nonsense ...

America is very good at refining oil into other fuels. Many countries export crude oil to the United States that gets refined and sold back as fuel.

US reliance on fracking and natural gas results in high rates of extraction of light petroleum comonents: NGL (natural gas liquids) and lease condensate, especially. These cannot readily be converted into fuels, but are useful especially for processing heavier crude oil, particularly Agentinian / Orinoco cude, more comparable to tar.

I believe Canadian tar sands also rely on these, for similar reasons.

Lease condensate and NGL count toward total production and export numbers but are of limited use in domestic fuel consumption.



The net import report suggests the difference is NGLs.


Not an expert, but if it were cheaper, some other company would appear which would buy from the US exporter and sell back to the US importer, avoiding oil going outside the country.

The oil markets are some of the biggest and most efficient in the world, so there must be a reason for this.

Not sure you'd call it an "inefficiency", but absolutely this happens.

Company A may own oil wells in Alaska and a refinery near Houston. Off the tankers go to Japan and Korea for the Alaskan crude, and in the tankers come from Venezuela to Houston.

So with such trivial actions constituting an import or export, why do we use import/export as such an important measure, rather than where the imported thing was initially produced? Wouldn't that be where most of the value was added, and where most of the profit per unit of thing would flow to?

Indeed, "import" and "export" are merely nation-based lenses on regular trade. If you make the lens small enough, you or your family unit are "importing" all sorts of foods and products, and "exporting" a few mostly labor and services (you also have a terrific "trade imbalance" with your favorite baker and grocery store).

Not quite - especially in the commodities world - prices fluctuate and often ships can be at sea for months as the goods they carry are traded back and forth by companies based on energy contracts - in the end - something may have been produced in company X for 5€ and shipped when the price was 10€ - but by the time it arrives at its final destination its worth 50€ because the market has moved / the contract it was sold of was pegged at a higher rate

It is more efficient to export Alaska oil to Asia than to refine it in the lower 48.

Alaska is only 4% of US production these days because North Slope is a more exornsive operating location than lower 48 shale oil.

Supply was added over the years and demand and subsequent contracts/relationships were added "on demand". More generally macro economic actors don't behave rationally collectively.

Crude might be moved elsewhere to be refined. We then import gasoline and other by products? Just a guess... I don't have the numbers.

If a company is both an importer and an exporter (such that terms like 'net' make any sense) then yeah, the market is inefficient.

This is too simplistic. The item might have variations (such as crude oil) which leads to different choices on import vs. export. The geographic source and destination might be important (well might be close to foreign refinery and vice versa). The method of shipment might matter (ship, rail car pipeline). The previous contracts and obligations might matter and so on

In addition to crude type mentioned here, there are relative price differentials to take advantage of due to the local storage/transport constraints. For example, US oil may become cheaper because there is so much shale production growth there. Likewise, because Canada liberals continuously block pipelines, Canadian oil fell into the single digits last month.

Of course, most of this differential is eaten up by transport middlemen, so this isn't much of a good thing for the consumer still.

We refine oil for a lot of countries.

After the 1973 crisis a law was brought in so that U.S. crude oil had to be sold on the domestic market, i.e. not available for export.

Then it changed and here we are today.

From https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/09/30/why-the-u-s-...

Crude oil producers lobbied for an end to the export ban, and in late 2015 they got their wish when President Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. This $1.15 trillion spending bill contained a provision that stated: “To promote the efficient exploration, production, storage, supply, marketing, pricing, and regulation of energy resources, including fossil fuels, no official of the Federal Government shall impose or enforce any restriction on the export of crude oil.”

So this is what is happening. There is a lot of economic warfare going on in energy markets. The OPEC gig is designed to make sure that extracting oil is profitable, if there was no OPEC then it might as well be pre-Standard Oil days when there was a race to the bottom, with everyone churning out as much as they can and prices going to zero.

Another change is that the U.S. vassal Iraq is back online, with the oil being looted from beneath the sands there to line the pockets of the big corporations that backed that particular war.

Given this supply situation - the U.S. and Iraq now selling on the open market - something has to give. Hence, in this game of musical chairs it is practically necessary to keep other suppliers out of the game. Hence sanctions and other economic measures to keep players such as Venezuela, Iran and Russia in their place.

Now this is bad for the U.S. dollar as sanctions, tariffs and protectionist nonsense mean that countries like India are happy to by oil from Iran. They see the childish USA as a here today, gone tomorrow empire and Iran as a proper civilisation with many millennia of legit history and culture. Same with China and the trade deals they have with Russia. This is all going on differently to before. In the pre-9/11 days the world was happy to buy a freshly printed dollar from Uncle Sam in order to buy oil. Now that bit is being bypassed, not out of choice but what do you do if there are sanctions stopping you from buying that useless greenback?

For many decades the U.S. was able to print as much money as possible with those excess dollars going overseas, to not enter the domestic economy. This meant that there was no inflationary pressure on the dollar. With the Trump trade wars going on various countries are now reducing their dollar holdings and going for a mix of other currencies, e.g. the Euro and the Rouble. So soon the U.S. young people are going to be the bag holders and the whole scam of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency is going to come crashing down.

Hence the current desperation by the U.S. to foist their hydrocarbon products onto lame countries such as Poland and the Ukraine, usually wrapped up with some arms sales deal for good measure. Meanwhile more and more groundwater in the U.S. gets polluted with the miraculous fracking. This fracking business is built on quite sub-prime financing, tantamount to a Ponzi scheme and, once the LNG has been liquified and sent half way around the world it is not as competitive as 'gas from Russia'. World politics also goes from mutual trade and cooperation to protectionism and fascist politics.

At least this is better than the 'Peak Oil' with massive die-off that doom-mongers were predicting 15 or so years ago but it does not make for happy times. Oil is not a 'scarce resource' even if it will run out eventually, the problem - as 'solved' by Standard Oil - is too many people drilling for it, so it has always been an artificial scarcity. Also that small detail of the law being changed to enable U.S. producers to export is not widely known, certainly not on this thread thus far has any comment been made.

What is remarkable about the world map in this article is how many petrostates buy our oil: UK and Norway, and the UAE(?!).

I get that there's probably been a fair bit of empty tanker capacity over the past few decades going back the other way, but I wonder what's so special about US oil that merits taking it all the way to the Persian Gulf. Surely our military didn't need that much for its operations in the neighborhood?

>I get that there's probably been a fair bit of empty tanker capacity over the past few decades going back the other way, but I wonder what's so special about US oil that merits taking it all the way to the Persian Gulf. Surely our military didn't need that much for its operations in the neighborhood?

West Texas Intermediate is the lightest, sweetest crude on earth. Most refineries are built to handle medium density/sulfur, so everyone else has to buy it to mix with theirs.



Fascinating, though the factoid about being the lightest and sweetest appears to be a bit off the mark:

https://rentar.com/best-crude-oil-world-crude-oils-better-ot... (end of the article)

>Fascinating, though the factoid about being the lightest and sweetest appears to be a bit off the mark: https://rentar.com/best-crude-oil-world-crude-oils-better-ot.... (end of the article)

Malaysian Tapis is a small deposit used as a benchmark, but isn't traded globally the way WTI is. As far as usable reserves go, WTI is still the best.

This isn't just crude oil: it's "crude oil and refined petroleum products". Oil refining is something the US has massive capacity for; we can ship oil in, refine it, and ship gasoline etc back out, often cheaper than refining the oil closer to its origin. It helps to remember that shipping on bulk liquids is very inexpensive per ton.

Huh that explains things then. I was wondering why more refining wasn't done locally to reduce shipping costs given that it is preferable to ship lumber instead of timber and ingots instead of ore. I guess tanks would have lower expenses with loading and unloading since it is just a matter of hooking it up and pumping.

> ... given that it is preferable to ship lumber instead of timber

There are also regulatory reasons for this one. As I understand it, as a general rule, you cannot legally export raw timbers harvested from federal and state lands in the US. [1] There are also trade problems when wood products come from federal lands because of potential subsidies. (You want to get a Canadian to talk your ear off, just bring up softwood in the context of US trade.) [2]

Raw timbers and cants also have pest concerns that kiln-dried lumber doesn't.

[1] https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr208.pdf [2] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42789.pdf

Interesting. Given that I heard about those in third world contexts I thought those raw lumber regulations were intended as a slight slow-down to excessive exploitation - that you have to set up at least a lumber mill and process everything in-situ to at least give a stable direct or peripheral income to inhabitants instead of a locust like clear cut and ship out the wood approach. The previous even if it left them deforested would give enough to live on at least short term.

Lumber mill jobs require some basic numeracy and literacy or trade training as opposed to just "any strong man" and would be a more sustained task. The two together imply that the locals would reap some benefits during the operation through at very least selling services - even if they leave after they work through the forests it would be less likely to cause a humanitarian crisis and/or insurrection.

Even a sociopathic imperialist leader would be annoyed that they have to keep wasting resources cleaning up after timber barons instead of scheming after things of far more value.

Also a matter of expense: a lumber mill is extremely cheap when compared to a refinery. Refinery costs are one of the main reasons crude is shipped unprocessed.

Whereas mines often do process on-site, since for something like gold ore you will be shipping multiple tons per ounce of product, plus then the remainders from the ore become a disposal problem at the processing site.

Same reason silicon foundries aren't necessarily located anywhere near where the raw materials are sourced from.

The UK's oil production has been falling steadily since the mid-nineties, and consumption has remained relatively flat, so it makes sense that they'd import oil. Petrostate also implies that the nation's wealth stems from oil, which was never the case for the UK.

UK oil production during the last five years has been a quarter of what it was during the 80’s and 90’s.

IIRC oil comes in many different grades, I believe North Sea Oil is a higher grade/more expensive than general US oil (West Texas Intermediate I think it's called), so we export North Sea Oil and then buy cheaper oil for our own needs.

Our military does use an insane amount

Interestingly the US military is investing heavily in solar, if only because it reduces the logistics tail of deployed units and reduces the overall attack surface (less resupply needed, fewer transports to be attacked) [0].

US military use of oil has also fallen compared with a few years ago because of reduced ground combat tempo in Afghanistan / Iraq.

They are still a massive oil user though, so a long way to go.

[0] https://www.energydigital.com/renewable-energy/us-military-w...

I don’t think it’s safe to call the UK a “petrostate”

And things are about to get really crazy. We just discovered a new us reserve with 46 billion barrels.


That is not a new find. They found it like 2 years ago but USGS said it only contained 20 billion barrels. It is often that these finds get revised upward due to improved technology and the such or better scientific tools being used to analyze the formation.

That's a few hours of the global oil demand, right?

That’s terrible.

It's good and bad, like it or not oil is required for our modern society, and will be for a long time even as we transition away from it.

In the meantime, eliminating our energy dependence on autocratic nations is a pretty big benefit. EU is so dependent on Russian gas they can't push back against aggression.

It's good and bad in the same way a crack head finding a suitcase filled with crack is good and bad. In short it's catastrophic to anyone who cares about tomorrow.

Oil has significantly more benefits for the US than crack has for anyone. It certainly has its share of drawbacks, too, but it's not quite as simplistic as that.

Oil also has significant more downside to all of humanity than crack does.

You're painting with some broad strokes of black and white there.

EU's reliance on russian gas could come to an end though because the USA is building many new LNG export terminals.

And increasing the supply of oil slows down the process of electrification.

I don't think it's that simple.

If we in America are going to continue to use fuel, it's preferable (assuming this matters to you as an American) that we support the jobs and wealth of those in the United States before Saudi Arabia. At the same time, you're right this could be terrible, but for the reason that more supply could lower oil prices and make electric vehicles, and renewable energy as a whole, a less compelling alternative, thus slowing our transition.

I doubt the oil markets behave this simplistically, however, so who knows what will happen.

I don’t understand why everyone pretends that the process of electrification and the cost of oil are unrelated to each other.

Time and time again we see that public interest in oil free ways of doing their lives, from electricity cars to electric furnaces waxes and wanes with the cost of oil. If oil prices drop the progress of electrification will slow down massively.

And, every drop of oil pumped is more carbon. We will burn all that oil. If we hadn’t discovered it (or discovered it much later), it wouldn’t go into our atmosphere and risk our species chance of survival.

Until you noticed how much of our life revolves around gas (at least in the US)...I am all for the electrification of transportation such as cars the next coming couple of years but without oil, our current society would not even function. Driving to work? You need to use oil. Need groceries? You need to use oil. Grocery stores actually have stuff to sell? You need to use oil. There's enough food for everyone because crops are harvest and grown healthy? You need to use oil.

You act as if the cost and availability of oil has no impact on the pace of electrification.

The current time is probably the worst in net amount of wasteful natural resource consumption humans have taken part of. All this leads to is more pointless burning of resources that will take 50 million years to regenerate, saturation of atmosphere with gases that are nothing short of barbaric geo engineering, and proliferation of pointless business (energy jobs) among population that seems like is having hard time adjusting to a future where the jobs are not going to be as necessary.

Modern resource consumption is just huge compared to any time in history, but it seems a fair number of past societies have collapsed due to resource exhaustion. The big difference is how good we are at using resources, not that we do it.

We’re also a lot better at predicting future outcomes but unfortunately just as bad at changing course.

Has anyone ever done a happiness/energy-consumption ratio ?

> Has anyone ever done a happiness/energy-consumption ratio?

Given nobody has objectively defined happiness, no. But energy intensity, "calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP" starts at what you're getting at [1]. On that front, energy intensity has been materially increasing (EDIT: decreasing) for decades [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_intensity

[2] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=27032

Thanks. My point was, IIUC, economy is centered on material productivity (thus energy) because it gives us access to needs and thus more production => more chance of satisfaction. That said it occurs to me more and more that a lot of things that makes one happy are quite low on energy. Sitting on a hill watching the view. A river.. Happy neighborhoods. None of these are material constructions. Maybe society needs a tag to measure drift from happiness.

> Sitting on a hill watching the view. A river.. Happy neighborhoods. None of these are material constructions

Yet they're tightly mingled with GDP. Sitting on a hill is not relaxing if your family is starving. Neighbourhoods aren't happy if institutional instability and political violence is afoot. GDP isn't a material measure. It's a measure of production, which is closely tied to the subjective measure of value. (For example, digital goods.)

Production doesn't equal happiness. But it certainly helps make it attainable.

Sure, what I was saying is that it's not a linear relationship, it grows at first, and after a point it goes down

> I was saying is that it's not a linear relationship, it grows at first, and after a point it goes down

Until we have an objective measure for happiness, I'm not sure we can say this. The best I can say, for myself, is the gains are punctuated. Production (or income) gains produce a big bump in happiness, then nothing for a while, then unlock something novel which again produces another big jump. Projecting that onto a society, I see the potential for massive gains in future civilization-wide happiness in lines of medical and human spaceflight research.

You know I just came back from a tropical island, and that idea has took a beating. With adequate climate you can have loaded trees, and tons of different animals; so much you wouldn't know what to do with it. Western society tried to replace that with industries. But when people are far away from their needs there are inefficiencies introduces by individualism.

> when people are far away from their needs there are inefficiencies introduces by individualism

More wealth means people who like relaxing on beaches can relax on beaches. I’ve done a fair amount of that. Once I’ve recharged I start getting restless. (There is a half-welded attempt at a shallow-water submarine at a friend’s in Costa Rica.)

No, more wealth means someone will buy the beach and turn it into a business. Only the wealthiest will have enough to pay, the rest will envy and waste money in illegal tan cabins

> energy intensity has been materially increasing for decades

Increasing? You meant decreasing, right?

Energy productivity is increasing, ie: we're producing more with less energy.

> Increasing? You meant decreasing, right?

Yes. Fixed--thank you. I got mixed up between the Wikipedia article quoting energy intensity and the EIA page using energy efficiency (essentially, the inverse of intensity).

Thanks, I forgot about this. Now we just need to add Buthan energy per capita and use that ratio to find how much energy is really needed for us to be happy.

To be fair, that's not all it leads to. I'm not saying that it was the best way to do it, but the energy industry over the last ~150 years has driven nearly unimaginable increases in human development, standard of living, poverty reduction, and technology.

That said, in 2018 we have little excuse for our current track. We couldn't have done solar or nuclear instead of oil 100 years ago, but we can today, and the fact that we're not is shameful.

Solar or nuclear primarily generates electricity, which little oil is used for. They also have problems with supply/demand load balancing, and there isn't a good storage solution for that yet. Lastly, oil products have energy density that batteries are barely starting to be capable of. Tesla is just getting started, but the world will still need jet fuel.

Solar and nuclear could serve to recharge car batteries so it's not completely inaccurate. As for the battery capacity problem, the combination of more recharge stations (say, next to the workplace) and more efficient car sharing/renting when you actually need to go far can solve that. So it's also a logistics problem.

> oil products have energy density that batteries are barely starting to be capable of

Not even close, diesel/gasoline stores 35 MJ/l, a good battery (lithium-metal, much better than lithium-ion), 4.32 MJ/l

Now, if only we could extract 90% of that diesel stored energy.

Via Wikipedia: "Modern gasoline engines have a maximum thermal efficiency of about 25% to 50% when used to power a car."

Meanwhile, the average passenger car in 2000 created 11,000 pounds of co2 over the course of a year... I don't think I had seen that number before - no wonder there's a problem. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhaust_gas

If you can't actually extract it (because of limitations like Carnot efficiency, etc.), does it actually count? What's the real figure for usable energy in diesel?

diesel engines can exceed 45% efficiency [0], so lithium ion would have to more than triple in energy density to be competitive (using GP's numbers).

that said, diesel is mainly used in large trucks and shipping vessels, where I would imagine energy per unit volume would be more important than energy per unit mass. if electricity were much cheaper than diesel fuel, it could certainly become the economic choice for all but the longest routes.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine#Major_advantages

Regenerative breaking could theoretically get you 2x.

Regenerative braking gets you basically nothing on long steady-speed routes. Energy leaves the system primarily through air resistance and to a lesser degree mechanical and rolling resistance. Trucks crossing the country can go 60mph on cruise control for hours on end.

Regenerative braking helps more for stop-and-go driving in cities but it's basically meaningless for long-haul trucking or shipping.

It also gets you something where there is altitude gain.

In practice, a few percent, <10% AFAIR.

Depends on what you are doing.

An awful lot of energy consumption is just fine with waste heat, it doesn't need a heat engine. There you get 90% efficiency even with heating oil.

If you need heating, the efficiency of an electricity-powered heat pump is around 300%, so batteries are actually competitive here.

> oil products have energy density that batteries are barely starting to be capable of

"Grandpa, tell me again about combustion engines."

"Well, they burned gasoline in a series of tiny explosions, and they were set up so that the timing of those explosions would generate motion."

"Haha, that sounds like a Rube Goldberg machine."

"Yes, and the worst part is that fire is hot. So even though gasoline contains a lot of energy, the process of turning it into motion was fantastically inefficient. They turned so much of the energy into useless heat that they needed whole separate systems just to throw it all away so the darn things wouldn't melt."

It has, but I still can't help feeling like we can do better.

I was looking at concept drawings from Walt Disney's original conception of EPCOT, back when it was supposed to be a living community and not just a theme park. What struck me is, that sort of environment doesn't just seem to offer a more pleasant and human way of life; it's also probably way more efficient, both economically and environmentally, than typical communities in the USA.

So, yeah, development was fast, but it followed a greedy search and got trapped in a local optimum.

I think our algorithm is a lot more complicated than greedy search, if you just step back and look at it through a longer timescale. We're not "trapped" in a local optimum, we've just reached one, and the algorithm is just now realizing it and starting to explore alternatives.

It's not the fact that it's complex that's the problem, it's the fact that it is adversarial. Not in a "survival of the fittest" kind of way but in a "we have to exterminate this other group/ideology because it is a perceived long term threat to us" kind of way. Or, as a substitute in polite society, "it doesn't how much we have together, as long as I'm guaranteed to have more than you."

We are very much trapped. The entire U.S. political system is geared towards automobile-based structure at every level of government. Coal is embedded as well. Imagine if the federal government had never subsidized the interstate system, how different our cities would look.

Again, too short a timeline. Our energy landscape will be totally different in 100 years.

> We couldn't have done solar or nuclear instead of oil 100 years ago

Well, as of the 70s we were doing both. Hell, Jimmy Carter even put solar panels up at the White House. (Reagan took them down.)

Not only that, but:

"An electric vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900."

(from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicl...)

> even put solar panels up at the White House.

They were not solar panels (for electricity), they were solar water heaters, and they didn't work very well, which is why they were taken down.

I have to agree it's been a great springboard and we should be doing more. I think the reality on the ground is that solar has only achieved attractive efficiency levels in most recent years. Similarly electric vehicle range and cost has only started to become achievable in recent years. Right or wrong nuclear has always had a perception of danger to it that the most people would say NIMBY. It's understandable there is still a thriving market in the developed world for petroleum fuels.

I think we've finally reached a point now were the market is offering both individual and larger scale commercial/public energy solutions. It takes time for new infrastructure investment - it's lots of small efforts. Given the reality on the ground in most of the developed world I have to imagine it takes another 50 years to get to majority renewables.

So what's a petroleum producing world power to do? Seems like ensuring a balance of power and energy production for the next 50 years of world development is a responsible thing to do.

That’s not really “fair”, though, the positive aspects of oil will be severely tempered by the myriad effects of global warming.

> but the energy industry over the last ~150 years has driven nearly unimaginable increases in human development, standard of living, poverty reduction, and technology.

Depends on what is understood by the standard of living. The situation where some people have to spend 6 hours a day trapped inside their vehicles just to get to work and back home, hardly can be seen as a high standard of living.

I tend to be quite sceptical about the claims that high energy consumption is imperative for higher standard of living.

Before fossil fuels instead of some people spending up to 6 extra hours a day sitting in motorized transport nearly all people in every society were spending those 6+ extra hours doing back-breaking work in the fields.

That’s a bit of a myth. In feodal european soscieties - maybe. But not in _every_ sosciety.

> The Kapauku people of Papua think it is bad luck to work two consecutive days. The !Kung Bushmen work just two-and-a-half days per week, rarely more than six hours per day.


I understand, believe me. There's still a lot of suffering and misery in the world. We have far to go.

But there has been a pretty clear increase in standard of living, even if you consider that some people have long commutes in climate-controlled vehicles with comfortable seats and media devices at their fingertips, on their way to jobs where they earn a PPP-adjusted income that's historically and globally very high.

Think of the global decreases over the past century in starvation, disease, infant mortality, maternal mortality, illiteracy, accidental death, etc.

Things aren't perfect because they'll never be perfect, but that doesn't mean we haven't made progress overall.

And what if all of the progress is undone by cripplying drought, flooding, intense storms, crop shortages?

There is no denying that fossil fuels have brought an unprecedented level of wealth and prosperity. But what we need to do is face up to the fact that we will lose all of those gains if we arent willing to sacrifice some if them to avoid disaster. Sharing renewable tech with developing countries, ending fossil fuel subsidies, taxing emissions, legislating with a healthy environment as a first priority - they will make many a little bit worse off, but are utterly crucial for any hope of a prosperous future.

I agree that we need to make those changes but I think we will, just too late. And yet I still don’t think we’ll “give up all the gains” of the past 150 years.

circa 2100: "Wait, so you're telling me they just burned it?! The same stuff we need to make plastics?!"

> The same stuff we need to make plastics?

You don't need oil to make plastic. You can make plastic out of air. The atoms needed for virtually all plastics are just Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and sometimes chlorine.

You can get every single one of those out of air, and maybe seawater.

The only reason we usually use oil is because of the energy embodied in it, which is needed to make plastic. If you had an alternative source of energy it's quite easy to make plastic out of lots of other things.

It is far from clear that turning oil into plastic is any less damaging in the long run than burning it.


Plastics can certainly be damaging, but they have many uses for which there are no substitutes. We have substitutes for energy production.

You’re assuming the plastic is thrown away.

There’s no reason properly built plastic tools shouldn’t last approximately forever.

(Obviously nothing lasts forever but correctly formulated and molded plastics are extremely durable)

And can be recycled.

Or stored in landfills for future use.

I wonder if future societies will be based on "longest time before heat death" goal.

If it was pointless there wouldn't be so much money in it.

You sound like somebody completely out of touch with reality. People like you hurt our cause.

Since you've continued to post personally nasty and otherwise uncivil and unsubstantive comments, and ignored the many requests we've made to you to stop, we've banned this account.

Since i saw your banning and was watching that since it seemed a little rediculous with your karma, I'm curious, did you do anything as your newest comment is now not dead?

Yeah, I show dead so I saw and I'm replying to my own comment since I cannot to yours. That sucks.

Maybe try emailing them with an apology since you have 15000 karma.

Sorry, that sucks

Note that this includes refined product, which is massive in the US. When I first read this wikipedia page, it was a huge surprise how world-dominant the industry got in the last 10 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_refining_in_the_Unit...

I don't like fracking but can see the political, economic and (C02)environmental benefits. Puts me in an awkward position.

What are the CO2 benefits of fracking?

Specifically for extracting natural gas. Gas is now much cheaper than coal which is one of the reasons coal fired power stations and coal mines are closing. Gas has a smaller percentage of carbon than Coal so creates more steam, less C02 for the same heat.

Fracked gas has replaced conventional oil in the US as the default heating fuel. This is the reason why America's carbon output is falling faster than anywhere else on Earth.

Yes, but it's still highly likely that making a huge source of carbon energy in the ground economically viable will be a big net negative for climate change in the future; I think the likeliest outcome is you've just delayed the use of those other more polluting resources by some number of years.

Now, the delay could be a net good thing if it gives non-polluting sources like solar, wind and nuclear more time to become cost competitive, but at the end of the day fracking has enabled billions and billions of barrels of oil to end up as CO2 in the air where previously it would have been left in the ground.

Yeah you're probably correct. Also the extra gas supply has made oil and coal cheaper which probably slows transition to cleaner energies.

It makes buying solar panels cheaper, installing them cheaper, and the required batteries cheaper because the trucks that mine silicon use diesel and the people working at the dollar panel factory get there by petrol.

Nice! Cut off the weapon sales and Saudi has to just pump as much as possible

Puml themselves back into irrelevancy

Makes sense now

The US just enormously upgraded the size of its reserves sitting in Texas.[1] There's probably $10 trillion worth of oil in just the greater Texas / New Mexico Permian region.

How the US oil boom changes the US relationship (dependency) to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia specifically, will be one of the more interesting political dramas of the next ~20 years. It has already realistically killed OPEC, leaving the US-Russia-Saudi group as the new core of the global oil market. Forecasts are for the US to go on up to 15 to 18 million barrels per day of production. The US self-interest may rapidly pivot from propping up foreign producers to benefitting from their collapse as competitors. I'd expect the crowd that believes US foreign policy revolves around oil, to invert their story to be that the US actions are now about eliminating energy competitors (eg Iran or Venezuela). If in the coming years the US actually goes the direction of no longer guaranteeing security for eg The House of Saud, I'd expect China to step in and play that role.

[1] https://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/2018/12/07/usgs-p...

> I'd expect the crowd that believes US foreign policy revolves around oil, to invert their story to be that the US actions are now about eliminating energy competitors (eg Iran or Venezuela).

How is that an inversion? If you start from the claim that foreign policy revolves around oil and acknowledge the change from a net importer to a net exporter, that would logically affect foreign policy.

It's an inversion because the premise has overwhelmingly been, for a long time now, that the US invades for positive oil supply (in one form or another). It was nearly universally proclaimed by the anti-Iraq war crowd that the US went into Iraq for their oil.

The inversion is that the US would be toppling nations in one form or another, or simply not propping them up, to intentionally cause havoc to reduce oil supply from competitors. It would be to harm the competing oil producers for the benefit of US production.

the saudi’s will always be propped up to to hurt iran and help israel

If Canada's an exporter and the US is an exporter, who's importing, and does this make the Canadian pipeline less valuable?

I'm a bit unsure where the headline comes from. The latest WPSR has net imports of crude oil as 4,016kbpd...

Net export of products leads to a slight total surplus. This EIA has the gory detail of contributing factorsin below link. Note third section for the botton shows a net export surplus.


I assume a lot of the imports are then purchases from foreign exporters by American refiners who have lined up foreign buyers of finished products? This is economically valuable activity, but it doesn't feel like a good measure of any kind of energy independence.

> toward what U.S. President Donald Trump has branded as "energy independence."

That seems unnecessarily charitable. I don't think this is a novel idea (in 2018), or one that can be credited to Trump in particular in any way.

Google trends puts the peak since 2004 (for the US) in 2008[0] — when US gas prices were at a relative height[1] — and basically declining interest since, as gas prices have fallen. But the concept long predates even that (initial interest in the US probably largely driven the 1973 OPEC oil embargo).[2]

[0]: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=e...

[1]: https://www.statista.com/statistics/204740/retail-price-of-g...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_energy_independe...

Every president since the 1970s oil crisis has talked about energy independence. Now we're there.

Now we can start to disengage from the Middle East and let them sink back into the sand. That would save the US a trillion a year.

Would it be possible with decades of mission creep for the US to seriously consider disengagement from the Middle East?

Sure, the American people have long since had enough. There was zero support for a wider escalation in Syria years ago; there's less than that now to do anything further over there. Trump partially got elected on a populist platform of ending the global deployments and perma wars in the Middle East. When even the Republican base is done with it, it's done. Oil security used to be an argument, it's blatantly not any longer.

Even US generals are proclaiming Afghanistan a stalemate and that it's time to go home. It would require a vast number of soldiers on the ground to decimate the Taliban at this point. There's nothing left that can be accomplished there, short of staying forever and deploying a vast number of soldiers to prop up the central government perpetually. The original mission was accomplished long ago.

The US has only a few thousand soldiers in Iraq, helping with training, support and limited ISIS resistance issues. Mostly Iraq is operating entirely independently as a nation, with near record high oil production (and plans for much more output). Short of a near-term catastrophy, they should be able to stand on their own from here.

People think the current cost problem in the US military has to do with the Middle East. Unfortunately it doesn't. Ending everything we're doing over there will only save about $50 billion. The other unnecessary $200 billion the military industrial complex is spending, they're not giving back, even though they should. They'll pivot any spending reduction from the Middle East to Asia (China containment). They even have the audacity right now to proclaim that they need more money.

> Every president since the 1970s oil crisis has talked about energy independence. Now we're there.

Sure. This gradual trend has been a long time coming. I agree it's hugely significant, but I object to the attribution to Trump in the opening paragraph of the piece.

> Now we can start to disengage from the Middle East and let them sink back into the sand.

I agree there are huge benefits to the US in ceasing to fund the Saudis in particular, and to a lesser degree, other members of OPEC. Re "disengage" in particular, I don't think we should totally tear down diplomatic relations and abandon foreign policy goals, though. Maybe that's not what you meant.

> That would save the US a trillion a year.

Where does this figure come from? What are you comparing? Our oil production rate didn't change overnight and it seems unlikely that the difference from yesterday amounts to $2.7 billion per day ($1T annualized).

The trillion/year I believe was in reference to military expenditures.

Are we comparing 2017 against 2018? Or 2017 against some hypothetical future year where the military's energy use is completely free?

US military activity in the Middle East cost.

And while Trump is working to boost US oil production, China is pushing like crazy to get all of its road vehicles off of oil and onto electricity.

It's doing that to reduce the costs of importing oil, to reduce its vulnerability to oil supply disruptions, to reduce its terrible problems with air pollution, to counter global climate change, and to take over the world automotive industry.

Who do you think is pursuing the wiser course?

News about fossil fuel prices or about birth rates seem to get exactly the opposite reaction at first blush than I think they should have.

A smaller population and sustainable practices mean we as a species may actually avoid a catastrophe.

The US is also selling its Strategic Peroleum reserve at about a million barrels (0.15%) a week. This is mandated by the Trump tax reform law to make the federal deficit. This makes net imports appear smaller.


Please don't do this here.


What do you think about India electrifying 300M more people just this year? From the latest climate change report India had a +6.3% change in their emissions in 2018 and projected to increase a lot more before it gets better. I'm mixed personally on it because with electricity that population will now have access to things like heating, cooling and the internet. India is notorious for pollution problems, so it would be interesting to see if some new innovator could be born out of having access to the electricity that they do now.

Carbon emissions is probably going to be the defining challenge of this century and its looking more and more like climate policies are not palatable to the general population. As with other problems in the past we really need to innovate our way out of the problem with advances in fusion, renewables and new durable battery tech.

All this fear about climate change makes me want to go back to school and study materials science and do whatever I can to advance tech to steer us off this cliff.

Electrification is critical in India to reduce air pollution - much of which comes from the inefficient domestic fires used for cooking and heating.

Thankfully, renewable energy is expanding rapidly and the government has ambitious targets of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 275 GW by 2027, up from around 75 GW today.

It's probably too late to innovate out (it might be too late to do anything). The recent UN report says we need to cut global net emissions by 50% by 2030 (11 years from now) in order to have a chance of staving off the most catastrophic effects.

Is 11 years enough time to invent, deploy, and scale any or all of those technologies?

There certainly isn't enough time for you to go back to school, learn what you'd need to learn, and make a meaningful contribution.

Innovation is not what is lacking. We have the technology today to cut global emissions by 50% or more, without major changes to our lifestyles or economy.

What is needed, however, is political will. The solutions can be expensive (in the short term), and solving environmental issues that will harm future generations does not win enough votes amongst a population mostly concerned with their own short-term welfare.

I assume by "political will" you mean the will of the politicians to do the opposite of what the people that elect them want. Otherwise, considering Paris Accords and such, one would imagine the French are all for green policies. Turns out all that was "political will".

Yeah, believe it or not, sometimes politicians need to do the opposite of what the electorate wants. When the electorate votes to kill Socrates, you really want to have someone around who will let him live.

Where I live in NJ there are plenty of examples to point to. Raising our gas tax is widely unpopular, and as a result our roads are full of potholes -- so much so that we pay more repairing our cars than we would pay in higher taxes for road maintenance.

You may have skipped the lecture on democracy and its advantages and drawbacks.

You may have skipped the lecture on the difference between direct democracy and representative democracy.

Nor will those generations enjoy having their everyday lives turn on the religious squabbles in the Middle East. Sadly, their futures won't be run by Putin, Maduro, emirs, ayatollahs, shakes, and imams thousands of miles away with apocalyptic visions.

The truth is that the ignorant frackers of Texas should get a Nobel Peace Prize.

That is because they will be busy dealing with the inevitable wars that catastrophic climate effects would trigger. If we do nothing about climate change there will be a major shift in which parts of the world are habitable and where food can be efficiently produced, and that will almost certainly mean wars will be fought.

The problem is that to do anything about climate change we are going to have to change the way we live our lives. We need to be willing to spend the time and money and effort on a massive reorganization of our civilization to make it less dependent on fossil fuels, which among other things will require us to use less energy to live our lives. The sad part is that most of the work will not require new technologies or significant research efforts; we just need to bite the bullet and deploy the technologies we already have.

I've yet to see a single individual lead a life like the one you and everyone screaming about global warming is calling for. Not Al Gore, not the science guy, not the astrophysicist, no one. There is no one. Please stop looking to average people to change their lives completely when you're not willing to do it.

First of all, I said we need to reorganize our society, so the existence of one or two hypocrites is totally irrelevant. Reorganizing society means changing how cities are planned, how, when, and where roads are built, and changes in the regulations of whole industries. One person's behavior is not really the issue here. The issue is how hundreds of millions of people go about their daily lives.

That aside, I already live in a place where the majority of people do not own a car (and I did not even get a driver's license until I was 25 years old), and of those that do the majority do not use their car in their daily commute. As a first step we should reorganize other cities and their suburbs to be less automobile-centric and to be more walkable and to have more effective public transit. There are local efforts underway even in very conservative areas of the United States (Salt Lake City comes to mind), but we need a larger effort that is part of a national strategy. The only thing holding us back is fear of change and an attitude of laziness (which is what the "it's too expensive and hard to do" argument represents -- especially given the fact that we already did something at that scale in the 20th century when we reorganized our society to support a car-based commute), and both of those are problems that require competent leadership more than anything else.

> The only thing holding us back is fear of change and an attitude of laziness

Baloney. We'd have to rebuild all our cities. Stop for a minute and think seriously about the cost (even just the energy cost) of doing that.

> especially given the fact that we already did something at that scale in the 20th century when we reorganized our society to support a car-based commute

No. We didn't rebuild the cities to do that, for the most part. We built the new growth in a different way than the existing cities. But fixing the existing setup to be less car dependent would require a whole lot of rebuilding. (You mention Salt Lake City. Trax and Frontrunner are fine, but they haven't emptied I-15. You want to change Salt Lake so that I-15 is empty? You're going to have to do a lot more than extend Trax.)

> Baloney. We'd have to rebuild all our cities. Stop for a minute and think seriously about the cost (even just the energy cost) of doing that.

Not doing it will likely be more expensive. There have been plausible studies that indicate the cost of dealing with the effects of climate change is significantly greater than what it would cost to avoid it.

So, instead of rebuild, legislate to ensure forward planning and ongoing redevelopment is progressive and sustainable ( let's leave the definition of that alone for this conversation).

Tearing down and rebuilding is not the only option. And as another commenter notes, the cost of dealing directly with climate change could be orders of magnitude higher. So let's try to have a more open and honest debate rather than covering our ears and shouting :)

Yes, please try that. That includes saying something new in your comments instead of simply lecturing others how to behave.

> I've yet to see a single individual lead a life like the one you and everyone screaming about global warming is calling for. Not Al Gore, not the science guy, not the astrophysicist, no one.

Well that's because all you need to do is shift money and "offset credits" around to solve the problem, not actually cut emissions!

civilizations have been squabbling with middle and far east for thousands of years, under different reasons. It has nothing to do with oil - someone will always try to find another reason to get those barbaric tribes on the righteous path, democracy, freedom, or whatever the new term will be.

Everyone has been squabbling everywhere. Until the 1970's the Middle East squabbles had little effect on people in Appalachia, Ecuador, and Mozambique.

Dismantle OPEC and let them sell Oil in currencies of their choice instead of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrocurrency

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a16995 I think it's worth to ponder on this picture

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