According to data released this week by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) at the Department of Energy:
1) US petroleum imports in March at 9.559 million barrels per day fell to their lowest level in any month in more than 16 years, going back to December 1997 (see top chart above). Over the last year, petroleum imports have fallen by 10% compared to March 2012, and by almost 20% compared to March 2011.
2) Thanks to revolutionary drilling technologies that have radically transformed America’s energy landscape, US petroleum production during the January to March period this year increased to 28.44 million barrels per day, which was the highest level for the first quarter of any year since 1988, twenty-five years ago (see middle chart above)
3) As a result of declining petroleum imports and surging domestic production, net petroleum imports fell during Q1 of 2013 fell to 36% – the lowest level for the first quarter of any year since 1991, more than 20 years ago (see bottom chart).
MP: In other words, as the AP article (“Oil and gas drillers make technological leaps, while renewable energy industry struggles“) below points out, the data above confirm the fact that there’s a technology-driven energy revolution happening in America. But it’s not the New Energy revolution of biofuels, solar and wind energy that was expected by politicians and policymakers, it’s a revolution of “Old Energy” (fossil fuels).
Technology created an energy revolution over the past decade — just not the one we expected.
By now, cars were supposed to be running on fuel made from plant waste or algae — or powered by hydrogen or cheap batteries that burned nothing at all. Electricity would be generated with solar panels and wind turbines. When the sun didn’t shine or the wind didn’t blow, power would flow out of batteries the size of tractor-trailers.
Fossil fuels? They were going to be expensive and scarce, relics of an earlier, dirtier age. But in the race to conquer energy technology, Old Energy is winning.
Oil companies big and small have used technology to find a bounty of oil and natural gas so large that worries about running out have melted away. New imaging technologies let drillers find oil and gas trapped miles underground and undersea. Oil rigs “walk” from one drill site to the next. And engineers in Houston use remote-controlled equipment to drill for gas in Pennsylvania.
The result is an abundance that has put the United States on track to become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas in a few years. As domestic production as soared, oil imports have fallen to a 17-year low (see top chart above).
And the gushers aren’t limited to Texas, North Dakota and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Overseas, enormous reserves have been found in East and West Africa, Australia, South America and the Mediterranean.
“Suddenly, out of nowhere, the world seems to be awash in hydrocarbons,” says Michael Greenstone, an environmental economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The consequences are enormous. A looming energy crisis has turned into a boom. And for renewable energy sources, the sunny forecast of last decade has turned overcast. Technological advances drove a revolution no one in the energy industry expected. One that is just beginning.