Issue: Jan 2007


Bio 2025



RENEWABLE FUELS FALL SHORT OF US ENERGY NEEDS

by Bob Brooks

Although renewable fuel use in 25 years is expected to double, fossil fuels will however
represent 85% of US consumption. The renewable fuel group with their respective percentages within the total energy mix are: biofuels 1%, biomass/waste 6%, hydroelectric 2% and other 1%.

The recently released report by Chevron’s Policy, Government and Public Affairs office, titled “5 Facts About Energy Security”(based largely on government data), takes a close look at the key factors the US faces in its drive to cut dependence on energy supplies from off-shore sources. The five factors are presented in the report in the following order:

EFFICIENCY “is the first and best source of new energy”. Data is presented on potential savings by year 2025 in all major categories. Saving from vehicle efficiency gains is given as 20%.Other categories with their respective potential are: Electricity Consumption - curb growth by 0.5%/yr., Natural Gas Consumption – curb growth by 0.5%/yr, Electricity Generation – improve energy intensity by 1.8%/yr, Building/ Equipment(residential) – increase efficiency by 3.2%, Building /Equipment – (commercial) – increase efficiency by 2.7%, Energy Intensity(industrial) – improve by 1.1% . The report data indicates that energy efficiency in China in 2004 was about 500% worse than in the US, the US was 15% worse than the EU and the US 50% worse than Japan

The report says the two largest energy consumers could save 3 million bbl of oil per day which is over one third of 2005 oil imports. (presumably an equal additional amount might be saved by vehicle downsizing and modified driving practices. The impact in future years from plug hybrid electric efficiency, for instance, vs. petroleum only fueled vehicle efficiency is an additional but unknown factor)

RENEWABLES: The data raises questions about the notion that the US could somehow replace imported oil with renewables. The report distinguishes between bio sources such as corn and a group termed “biomass/waste” with the later expected to be several times more important. The ‘biomass/waste” source is an emerging possibility not yet well defined as to cost and presents a sizeable list of questions about logistics and many other things.

INVESTMENTS IN NEW SUPPLIES: The report says that “while high energy prices are challenging for consumers, they enable the capital investment necessary for supply to meet growing demand”. Not specifically mentioned in the report is Chevron’s recently announced successful drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to a depth below sea level of over 6 miles into a “low tertiary” oil reserve said to hold 400-500 million bbl. Chevron expects
to recover this oil with an investment of $3.5 billion. ($7.00 - $8.75/bbl) and that other sections of the lower tertiary resource may additionally contain somewhere between 1.5 and 15 billion bbl.

FINANCIAL STRENGTH REQUIRED: The Chevron report points out that “To compete in today’s world often against National Oil Companies that enjoy a broad range of support from their governments – energy companies must deploy significant capital, technology and expertise to find, develop, transport, refine and deliver product to consumers”. In effect, without profits we can not serve our markets.

ACCESS TO UNTAPPED RESOURCES IS AN ISSUE: In this section Chevron points out that “sovereign states and their national oil companies own most of the resources that consumers need”. Data is given indicating that the National Oil Companies control 95% of the World’s Oil reserves leaving 5% controlled by International Oil Companies. Not included in the report is discussion of the resources, for instance, such as the oil in US shale, Alaska National Wildlife, Outer Continental Shelf, all areas of the Gulf of Mexico and other undeveloped oil assets special interests seek to exclude from US development.

The report brings into focus the core issue of how US energy policy should be balanced between conservation and secure supply

About the author: Bob Brooks is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and a long time automotive technology journalist.


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