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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Realism in the energy debate

Retired KPCB partner E. Floyd Kvamme wrote an op-ed in this morning’s Merc in which he contradicts some of the commonly bandied about energy “facts” from the recent campaign:
  1. We're sending $700 billion abroad to buy imported oil. Fact: Our net cost of imported oil this year will be about $400 billion due to the midyear price spike.
  2. We're dependent on the Middle East for our oil. Fact: We import oil from 60 countries; Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest suppliers. Persian Gulf suppliers provide less than 20 percent of imports; thus, we send about $5 billion a month to the gulf.
  3. We import 70 percent of our oil. Fact: Our import percentage peaked in 2005 at 60.3 percent and now runs at 56.5 percent.
  4. We have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Fact: There's no agreement on the size of global reserves with OPEC nations playing games to get more allocation; we continue to maintain up to a 10-year "backlog" of available oil.
  5. Turn off your lights to save imported oil. Fact: Oil plays virtually no role in electricity production, which nationally comes from coal (50 percent), nuclear power (20 percent), natural gas (18 percent), and hydro (7 percent). Wind and solar currently contribute less than 2 percent.
Alas, he seems to be a support of ethanol†. But at least he’s introducing sanity to other aspects of the energy debate.

Let‘s hope that the heat of the political season over, we will hear an accurate and consistent set of numbers (from a credible source) upon which the politicians and the public will make energy policy decisions.

† A farm subsidy program designed to increase food prices and produce a lower-energy fuel that may (or may not) cost more energy to produce than it delivers.

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