Access to energy was instrumental fueling the Industrial Revolution. Over the last 200 years, industrial nations have migrated from wood to coal and now to oil as a source of energy. During the 1700’s, wood was used for just about everything from fuel to constructing houses and building wagons and even tools. As demand for wood increased, the cost of wood rose as deforestation led to the scarcity. The scarcity of wood resulted in deteriorating economics.
It was the availability and access to coal that enabled the growth of Industrial Revolution by providing accessible energy. The Industrial Revolution was predicated upon the availability of Labor, Technology, Capital, and Energy. Scarcity of any of these inputs could undermine economic growth, as was the case with capital during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Energy Shock of the 1970’s.
Oil, driven by rapid growth in automobile usage in the U.S, has replaced coal as the main energy fuel. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the 70% of oil consumption in the U.S. is for transportation .
Figure 1 US Oil Imports
Figure 1 illustrates US historical oil imports, as measured by the Energy Information Administration in U.S. Crude Oil Field Production (Thousand Barrels per Day) that dates back to 1970. The EIA provides oil import data dating back to 1910. To estimate the amount of money the US spends on oil imports every year, we can use the data from the State of Alaska Department of Revenue, which provides historical data on the price of oil an derive an average yearly figure.
Figure 2 US Oil Import Spending
Figure 2. appears quite staggering given the amount of money we send to oil producing countries. The US is spending hundreds of billions to import oil. According to the EIA, the US imported an average of 10,031,000 barrels per day equating to $263 billion in imported oil during 2007 when the State of Alaska measured the yearly average spot price for a barrel of oil at $72.
According to Solarbuzz, Germany leads the world in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations with 47% of the market while China increased its market share of PV production from 20% to 35%. The US accounts for 8% of the world solar PV installations. Solarbuzz indicates the global solar PV industry was $17 billion in 2007 and the average cost of solar electricity is $0.2141 per KWH. If a portion of our $260 billion sent to oil producing countries were to be invested into solar energy, perhaps the US would not lag the world in alternative energy.
The bottom line is that the money spent on importing oil has a deleterious impact on our economy and continues our dependence on hydrocarbon fuels producing carbon and other harmful byproducts that negatively impact our climate and health of our children. The longer we are dependent on oil, the longer our economy and environment suffer. Use your vote for alternative energy and not drill baby drill.