It was reported just today that oil imports are falling in the United States. I might add, it’s about damn time. After years of cold war nonsense, illogical Government manipulation from subsidies for exploration to dictatorial control about where we are or are not allowed to buy oil from the resource has been poorly utilized and poorly brought to market.
Today when I read the USA Today article on falling oil imports. The article brings up a single point as to why our imports are dropping, which is “Experts largely credit new drilling techniques that have unearthed vast troves of previously inaccessible oil embedded in shale deposits in states such as North Dakota and Texas“. This again, brings up my frustration with so called experts. Especially experts that are likely some oil company employee spouting off how everything is fine and dandy. Well, here’s a few major reasons why imports have decreased and why we’re able to use more oil locally.
The first one, just to cover the bases, is the huge sacrifice the country is putting into shale derived oil. Even though we’re ruining massive volumes of drinkable water to mine this oil, it’s increased the amount of oil we’re producing in country by a fair bit. But that brings up the other huge reason why we’re able to use this new oil and decrease our imports. Let’s talk about all of these reasons, that combined, are making as much or more of a difference than the new shale oil we’re getting.
Driving is down by a large enough percentage that fuel usage has decreased across the nation. This isn’t a mere blip on the radar anymore either. As “US Driving Continues to Decrease“, dramatically “Study: Fewer Young People Getting Driver’s License” and some posit why “Fewer Teenagers Have Driver’s Licenses … Because of Gas Prices and the Internet?” but have no evidence. We know though that driving has decreased and continues to decrease. This started happening before the Great Recession and continues today.
Meanwhile more and more continue to move into urban cores, closer in suburbs and places that don’t require 100% auto-dependence. Some places of course, are still a disgrace to intelligence or intelligent lifestyle options like Houston, Texas or Phoenix, Arizona. However even those places have seen dramatic market demand for more livable, walkable, bicycle and transit friendly lifestyles. Albeit they’re orders of magnitude more difficult to attain in those cities. However others have seen a skyrocketing increase in demand; San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles even and many many others.
So why has our oil imports decreased? Sure, we’re producing a little more oil in country, albeit at great cost (shale oil is NOT cheap), but we’re also starting to live in a much more intelligent way than we have the last 50 plus years.
Here’s to hoping the United States continues to improve in this way.
Perhaps a convergent trifecta: Investments in public transit, bus. rail, hov, bike. Price of parking downtown due to city governments tolling for revenue. Mobile devices making time spent engaged vs driving more valuable.
Coda: I spent the holidays away.
In NYC, simply stunning to see how quickly and conveniently I can get to any airport, at any time of day, with bags, without car, intermodal works.
In UK, my commute to University used be half a day, now with electrified rail trains delivered me in under 2 hours. The trains glide into stations like Prius, then accelerate to full speed effortlessly hopping from town-to-town in 10 minutes, intercity in 30 minutes (In my West Midlands local).
Investing in intercity Amtrak electrification will further reduce oil, a good long term investment.
Yeah, the improvements in transit have helped a little bit. The capacity the US has for transit has gone up slightly over the last decade or so for the first time in probably 50-60 years. After decades of decreasing capabilities across the board and only increasing auto-dependency it’s really good to see people start demanding real options.
NYC & UK have some legitimate options too, there they’ve seen big spikes. In NYC it is one of the only cities in the United States that can actually handle large percentages of the population riding transit, which is impressive. If a little ole’ city like Portland or Seattle saw a significant jump both cities would be extremely limited – as much of transit is already near capacity during peak hours and sometimes even during the day. It sure would be interesting to see that percentage jump and the demands be made though, we’d see a massive drop in oil reliance! 🙂
As for that inter-city rail, the northwest is another prime example of an area that could absolutely benefit from a strong passenger rail backbone. Which of course, we have yet to get. The current Amtrak Cascades are great, and often have sold out trains on more than just a couple days per week. Improvements to those lines can only help the situation here, I look forward to seeing many of those come on line.