Influence & independence

By Mike D'Alexander

"The United States is the world’s largest consumer of petroleum, with 19.1 million barrels per day."

December 2011- He who has the gold makes the rules, and when it comes to commodities, oil is one of the most valuable. It can start and end wars and make or break treaties between nations. As the world’s leading oil consumer, the United States is facing a crisis. Oil production in the United States peaked in the 1970s, and by 2005, imports were approximately twice as much as production. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States is the world’s largest petroleum consumer, using 19.1 million barrels per day of petroleum products during 2010. Of those 19.1 million barrels, 11.8 million barrels per day are imported and include products such as diesel fuel, heating oil, jet fuel and asphalt.

Although about half of the United States’ crude oil and petroleum imports come from the Western Hemisphere, according to the EIA, about 19 percent of the imports come from countries in the unstable Persian Gulf.

America’s dependence on foreign oil dates back to 1973. After 38 years, it’s time to come up with a clear path to energy independence. For decades, U.S. oil policy has been a policy of dependence on foreign oil from both a supply and price perspective, even though the United States sits on a continent rich in resources, from natural gas to coal and oil. There are a number of oil fields in the North Slope in Alaska, the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada, the mid-central United States, along the Pacific coast and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. To read more about how growth in these regions is affecting the metals industry, see our cover story, “The energy boom,” page 14.

People continue to consume energy—oil, gas, electricity. It’s the economic lifeblood of the modern world. In 2010, 37 percent of the United States’ energy supply came from petroleum, 21 percent from coal, 25 percent from natural gas, 9 percent from nuclear and 8 percent from renewable sources (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric). This mix is changing constantly, but to power our current economy, we are stuck with oil until alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, prove to be efficient and cost effective.

In a basic form, the definition of energy independence means security, balance and protection, powering America with American-made and sourced fuel. Both new and current energy technologies will help create jobs and bolster national security. As the world’s largest consumer of oil, the United States needs to revisit its energy policy and come up with a responsible, comprehensive path to self-sufficiency, which will both advance society and secure America’s future. MM

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