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Here is some good news in my view.  Despite nearly 40 years of political claptrap to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, technology from the private sector, not cockamamie pie in the sky, physics-defying dumb ideas will deliver it.  That is, unless of course Washington snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, which it is 100% capable of doing.

I went looking for data on our dependence on foreign oil since the first oil shocks of the 1970s.  There is one significant dip in the import percentage Figure 1 and that is due to (1) a deep recession in the early 1980s, and (2) cars shrunk in size and weight in a period of a couple years by at least 30%.  They have since ballooned back to monster tanker size.  Have you stood next to a 6000 pound Dodge Charger[1] lately?

Figure 2 shows consumption, production, and imports of crude, as reported by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration.  Production has only recently increased after a nearly unabated 40 year decline.

As an example of Federal Government lunacy, see the transcript from GWB’s State of the Union show excerpt from 2006.  According to that, by now, 2012, we were to have plentiful, clean, safe, nukes (none), cellulosic ethanol (none), better batteries (like ones that don’t start on fire?), and this dandy: hydrogen for emissions free transportation (you’re killing me).

The 2006 goal was to reduce petrol imports by 75% by 2025 – another “pull a number out of the air” for a round of applause.  I would boo, or possibly I’d be more civil and just laugh aloud like Dr. Evil and No. 2.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the explosion in domestic natural gas and oil production due to hydraulic fracturing could chop oil imports from the hostile Middle East in half by the end of the decade and end it altogether by 2035.  Whoa!  Think of living in that kind of world!

Time out for this note:  We have only been worried about running out of natural gas and crude oil for about 35 years, but as the years pass, the reserves keep growing driven by the private sector’s salacious quest for profit.  It’s just pure evil.

Aside from geological and extraction technology delivered by the private sector, another critical element of this unstoppable energy boom is that the shale formations being targeted for drilling are in the control of private land owners, free of the Washington straightjacket (Figure 3).

Not only will oil production increase in North America, kicking our dictatorial adversaries where it hurts most, natural gas is likely to become a significant transportation fuel.  And, like it or not, a huge benefit of coal and natural gas is that they are virtually ready for consumption as extracted from the earth.  Crude oil obviously is not.

Even with this abundance of conventional fuel sources, the pursuit of alternatives will continue.  Actually, the abundance and accompanying low cost is likely to draw the sinister profit seekers to hotly pursue alternative fuels.  I project, with high certainty, that breakthroughs in alternate fuels will come from some of the most hated sectors in business: big oil and big chemical.  This isn’t like starting a software company or social media site.  It requires massive investment in R&D, high priced technical experts, equipment, and facilities, and freedom from the ignorance of dumb ideas and red tape.

This will be a bittersweet sister smooch.

[1] Wild guess.  The point is, they are enormous hulksters.

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Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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