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Few options where energy is concerned for U.S.

Posted: August 6, 2008 7:09 p.m.
Updated: October 8, 2008 5:04 a.m.

This letter is in response to Nancy Tujetsch's letter that appeared in The Signal on July 20.

I agree with her claim that we have not had any true leadership in this country for decades. No politician will risk telling the voting public how we are mortgaging our children's future for our own selfish present.

This spans subjects from Social Security, the national debt, our pouring billions of dollars into China for items that need to be replaced every couple of years, to how much our economy depends upon cheap energy.

That being said, let's focus on energy. Most economists believe that ethanol from corn is at best an energy neutral proposition. This means that it takes a gallon of gasoline, diesel or other petroleum product to produce each gallon of ethanol.

The petroleum is used to power the farm equipment used to grow the corn, harvest the corn and transport it to the factory that produces the ethanol. It then has to be trucked to the distribution points and from there to individual gas stations.

This doesn't take into account the amount of clean water that is spent in this process. The incentives given to the growers of corn are nothing more than political window dressing and a gift to the large agricultural companies.

In other words, it's a payoff to large political contributors to both parties by those in power.

In the original letter, estimates of oil and natural gas resources are supposed to be in the billions of gallons. First, the USGS estimates proven oil reserves in barrels, not gallons, and the number as of 2007 is just under 21 billion barrels.

Natural gas is not measured in gallons but rather cubic feet. Reserves of natural gas are estimated by the Energy Information Administration as 167 trillion cubic feet proven, with another 1,000 trillion possible.

Twenty-one billion barrels of proven reserves sounds like a lot, but the other side of this number is the fact that our fellow citizens in the United States use 21 million barrels of oil per day. This translates to 1,000 days of supply if we could produce 21 million barrels per day instead of the 4.1 million barrels per day currently actually being produced.

The United States has the largest known deposits of oil shale in the world. Oil shale is a misnomer in that there is no actual oil in the shale, but rather a waxy substance called kerogen. Given several million years and the right conditions, this substance could become oil as we know it.

However, at present there is no known way to commercialize this "oil," and if and when this happens it will not be in the $30-per-barrel-to-$40-per-barrel range of the tar sands, and certainly not the $5 per barrel to $8 per barrel of conventional land-based wells.

Unfortunately, the United States cannot become oil independent. We use too much and have too little left to exploit.

This means that we are captive to those who do produce more than they need and are willing to export the excess to the rest of the world.

This also means that we must compete with the others who are forced to import oil to keep their economies viable. We will be forced to bid for this oil against countries like China and India, whose people wish to live as we do with all that entails.

China has 1.3 billion people and currently uses approximately six million barrels of oil per day, or less than one-third of what we use with 300 million people. What do you think will happen to the cost of oil as more and more Chinese buy automobiles?

We must find alternatives or resign ourselves to a lower standard of living no matter who runs Congress or sleeps in the White House.

P.S. We import more oil from Canada than any other country.


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