STAT OF THE WEEK: Uncle Sam — world’s top energy producer?

27 Feb

FEELING EMPTY LESS OFTEN: The efficiency of the average U.S. passenger vehicle has increased to 29.6 miles per gallon in 2011 from 19.9 mpg in 1978, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A lot is being said lately about rising gas prices, which is none too surprising, especially during an election year. Thanks though to a Bloomberg report earlier this month, we can see a much brighter picture regarding this country’s goals of achieving energy independence.

According to the report:

• Domestic oil output is the highest in eight years.

• “The U.S. is producing so much natural gas that, where the government warned four years ago of a critical need to boost imports, it now may approve an export terminal.”

• According to U.S. Department of Energy data, this country has reversed a two-decade-long decline in energy independence, increasing the proportion of demand met from domestic sources during the last six years to an estimated 81 percent through the first 10 months of 2011. That would be the highest level since 1992.

• The last time the U.S. achieved energy independence was in 1952. The latest transformation could see the country become the world’s top energy producer by 2020.

This shift has many positive effects, the report stated, including “boosting household incomes, jobs and government revenue; cutting the trade deficit; enhancing manufacturers’ competitiveness; and allowing greater flexibility in dealing with unrest in the Middle East (Persian Gulf countries accounted for 15 percent of U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum products in 2010, down from 23 percent in 1999).”

Of course, the downside of this trend could be the environmental impact. The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman aptly addressed that concern and more in his most recent column:

“No one likes higher oil prices. But — perversely — the high price benefits America as we rapidly become a bigger oil producer and it ensures that investments will continue to flow into energy efficient cars and trucks. If we were smart, we would establish today a floor price for any barrel of crude oil or gallon of gasoline sold or imported into America — and tax anything below it. A stable, sufficiently high floor price serves the environment, our technology investments and our energy productivity. As our producers succeed, we would become increasingly energy self-sufficient, keep a lot more dollars at home for our Treasury, stimulate innovation on renewables and drive down the global oil price that is the sole source sustaining Iran and other petro-dictators.

But all of this depends on an understanding between the oil industry and the environmentalists. If President Obama could pull that off, it would be a huge contribution to America’s security, economy and environment.”

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