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US energy independence vs. energy security

12.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [energy] [coal] [crude oil] [natural gas]

The Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions recently released a report, “Energy independence and security: A reality check,” which examines whether or not energy independence is necessary to achieve energy security. Deloitte contends that the answer is “probably no.” The report reviews present and developing national energy policies and discusses US strategies for oil imports and use. A key conclusion is that, “while US energy independence may be unattainable in the foreseeable future, energy security is a realistic and achievable goal.

“The real issue is not independence from all foreign oil,” the report said, “but reducing oil imports from unfriendly nations, diversifying our supply of energy sources and ensuring that no nation can effectively manipulate markets against our national interests...Understanding how to reach [energy security], however, requires us to know more about our sources and uses of energy—and the realities of energy supply and demand.”

One section of the report breaks down the US’ primary energy sources and sectors. Petroleum provides the US with 36% of its energy (Fig. 2); 71% of all petroleum available is used in the transportation sector, while 23% of it goes to the industrial sector. Fig. 2 explains how the rest of the US’ energy sources are used.

  Fig. 2.  US primary energy consumption by
  source and sector, 2011 (% of total energy use).

The report also acknowledges that, “for most energy-consuming sectors of our economy, our supply is predominately domestic, with only transportation remaining more heavily dependent on imports. Thus, the US already has significant ‘energy independence,’ at least in terms of exclusive reliance on domestic production, for much of its economy.”

“The remaining question,” Deloitte contends, “is how to make the transportation sector more independent of sharp disruptions and unfriendly sources [of energy].” HP

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Malcolm Brown

This Deloitte report offers a refreshing perspective and sanity check (viz. the pop rhetoric) of our energy situation. It seems to me that it might miss, however, the counter intuitive strategic value of continuing significant oil imports in order to conserve our domestic supplies. This seems critical until we can build sufficient renewable energy supplies and conserve to balance supply and demand.
We are facing an "Energy Cliff" far worse than the Fiscal Cliff. While our current energy supplies are adequate, we are using them up and will in 50 or 100 years run out, with the exception of coal, whose supplies are also diminishing. As HP readers know it will take a generation or two, at least, to develop and install alternative energy to replace fossil fuels. Despite the good news about fracking, the US and the world will start to run out of fossil fuels during this time frame. It is therefore urgent, in order to not have a disastrous imbalance of supply-demand in our children's lifetime, that we soon implement a plan to be in sustainable balance. You can't kick this can down the road.

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