An update about US energy production

In my post about Victor Davis Hanson’s talk, I wrote that the US is the world’s largest coal producer. It turns out that I was wrong. And by “I was wrong,” I mean just that. It was my error, not Hanson’s. I was simultaneously trying to listen to Hanson, eat a divine chocolate dessert, and take notes. That’s not a good combo, and I’m pretty darn sure I misrepresented his statement about US coal production.

Here’s the skinny, from Donkatsu:

U.S. has the world’s largest reserves of coal, almost half of the total, but we are second to China in production of coal. China is now a net importer of coal, which why it is increasingly profitable for the U.S. to export to the world – higher prices.

Russia has a shale formation in West Siberia, Bezhmenov, that is believed to be much larger than North Dakota’s Bakken. However, they need foreign technology to get it out. China has shale gas resources about equivalent to those int he U.S. but most of it is in regions without much water, a key ingredient in hydraulic fracturing. (messaging – suppose the industry had called it “water stimulation” instead of hydraulic fracturing).

And there’s more, too, The U.S. is commonly portrayed by the egregious Tom Friedman and B. Obama, among others, as being on the sidelines of energy developments in the world. In fact, we are #1 in wind capacity, #1 in biomass (bigger than Brazil), #1 in natural gas, #3 in crude oil (headed for 1 or 2 soon), #2 in coal, # 1 in geothermal and #4 in solar PV.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Instead of harping on the North Dakota-Montana Bakken formation, we should also include California’s Monterey and the Rocky Mountain’s Green River formations. Then there are the upper-Midwest and New York-PA-Ohio formations. We are sitting on huge pools of oil and gas.
    Of course, there is a big obstacle to developing these clean, economical fuel sources – the magic thinking that emanates out of Washington, D.C.

  • Mike Devx

    > In fact, we are #1 in wind capacity, #1 in biomass (bigger than Brazil), #1 in naturalgas, #3 in crude oil (headed for 1 or 2 soon), #2 in coal, # 1 in geothermal and #4 in solar PV.
    I wonder where we rank in nuclear?
    Are the above rankings just by amount of energy produced total, or by per capita?

  • jj

    I take a back seat to no one in my disdain for Our Little Jugears in the white house, but in this case he may be, wholly accidentally, onto something.  His reasons for not developing our energy resources are the usual dumb-ass liberal ones, but the end result may turn out to be a net benefit.
    I have always sort of wondered at the wisdom of transferring much of the wealth of the western world to a bunch of camel-jockeys – something the western world has been assiduously doing for fifty years – but I begin to discern – faintly, off in the distance – an upside.  As long as we’re this deeply in, let’s finish the job.  Jugears seems disposed – for all the wrong reasons of course, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth – to do that.  The world isn’t running out of oil, apparently, but the Middle East is.  So we continue to leave what we have in the ground for another couple of decades, and drain them dry.  By about 2030 when they’re down to their last teacup and exporting it in eyedroppers, we can say “thanks very much,” and begin retrieving our own reserves.  The Middle East can go back to being a fly-blown irrelevancy to world events, and we can work to impart some order and reasonable behavior.  After all, if they didn’t have oil who – since they got kicked out of Spain – would ever have given a **** about them, or any part of their act?  They’ve been nothing but a problem forever – wouldn’t it be lovely to just say: “uh-huh, got it; sure thing.  Now go pound sand and stop annoying the adults.”  Wouldn’t that be lovely!

  • Michael Adams

    You’re right, of course. But…I worry about what they can do with the money in these intervening twenty years.  I also worry about what O’Boy, et cie, their, successors and assigns, will do as the distress calls come from people who have used a good deal of that money to buy sympathy from our utterly corrupt ruling class.
    Some of us are of an age to have read The Anatomy of Revolution in college, by Crane Brinton. His description of the sense of no longer having the right to rule, among the ruling class, that characterizes the period just before a revolution. I do not know that there is a new ruling class waiting in the wings, (another component) but they don’t usually advertise, do they?

  • Ymarsakar

    The US is very wealthy, yes, but so is Los Vegas and the previous Roman Empire. Wealth merely attracts thieves, murderers, corrupt and decadent sycophants looking for a slice.
    Making money is certainly feasible in this world and in this nation. Keeping it away from the hands of evil may be a more difficult task, but also a more just one than merely creating wealth.

  • donkatsu

    Danny – I will be long dead before CA gives the OK to exploit its shale formations, sad but true.
    Mike – nukes #1, but not for long.
    jj – nice thought, but the ME is hundreds of years away from exhaustion, and that is just for conventional gas and oil. In 1991 the other Hussein blew off the gas cap of the Kuwaiti oil fields (that provides natural pressure drive for the oil).  Today Kuwait produces more oil than they did in 1990, importing gas to pressurize its oil fields from   .   .   .   .   Iraq.
    Michael, you are right to worry about the corruption of our betters.
    Ymarsakar – The real point, aside from rebutting the vast army of know-nothings in our ruling class, is to show that we do not need central direction or federal subsidies to produce a lot of energy.  Wind and solar are inconsequential next to gas, oil coal, nukes and even hydro.  The more the feds butt into the energy trade the more they will create Solyndras and 123Energy, and the rest of the rent-seekers.

  • Mike Devx

    donkatsu, you said: Wind and solar are inconsequential next to gas, oil coal, nukes and even hydro.
    This makes me wonder: Have there been any studies on how subsidies for wind and solar attract corruption?   I’m not just asking whether corruption occurs; we know from Solyndra and their like that corruption occurs.  But subsidies are free money, for whoever can “qualify”.  (Qualify these days means, to be a friend or donor of Obama.)  
    Companies can play a *lot* of games with financial accounting.  They can donate to Obama, start up a company for solar or wind with which they NEVER have any intention of producing any energy at all.  They play their games and collect their subsidies for a few years, producing just enough “activity” to keep the subsidy money coming in.  Then they close shop after those few years, having built a little infrastructure perhaps, but never coming close to actually producing energy.  Easy money profit!  They walk away with our taxpayer dollars via the subsidies.  
    Any studies to show how often games like this happen?  Investors in a real energy company would be much more careful with the money.  Obama’s government couldn’t care less about the redistribution of your taxpayer dollars into the Friends Of Obama pockets.

  • donkatsu

    If you want to get technical about it, wind is at least kind of a scam from the get-to, even technologically.  It does not provide the power grid with firm generating capacity and must be supported (called mirroring or shadowing) by either storage (a hydro dam, huge batteries) or a fast-starting natural gas or oil power plant.  Otherwise, these plants cause significant frequency and voltage problems on the grid.  (Wind force is a cubic function so a halving of the wind speed leads to an eight-fold reduction in output and vice versa.)  That aspect of wind has been handled well at the web-site  Look for articles by Kent Hawkins and Donald Hertzmark on wind energy.
    The scam aspect has three different dimensions.  The first is the array of positive and negative incentives for investors, power distributors, customers, taxpayers.  Essentially, we have no say over production tax credit payments to wind producers.  However, these same companies are also receiving feed-in-tariffs (above market payments for their output) and are subject to “must purchase” rules for all of their output as well as a quota system (known as a “renewable portfolio standard”), which requires distribution or transmission utilities to purchase a certain fraction of their power from renewable generators.
    The next scam concerns additional costs imposed on the power system by (especially) wind generation.  In order to keep the network stable other firm power generators must be paid to provide voltage and frequency support, as well as reserve capacity.  All of those costs are rolled into a term that only Orwell could love: “system benefit charge”.  This appears on your bill buried in the transmission charges.  New Jersey’s “societal benefits charge” is 3.8% of the bill.  In Germany the renewable energy surcharge is about 7 cents/kWh, more than the cost of generation from a modern gas-fired power plant.
    The final scam has to do with land.  Wind and solar are not dense forms of energy.  In terms of land use wind and solar are about 200 times less dense, which means they need a lot of land.  And because their output fluctuates significantly, the transmission lines to connect these plants to grid must be oversized by a factor of 3-5, another cost thrown onto the bills of ratepayers, not the plant owners.  It takes stroke to get so much land for the plant and for the transmission rights of way.
    All of these scams have been made explicit in the president’s energy policies.  If the puff piece in today’s WaPo is an indication of where the wind is blowing we could well see a hedge fund founder and Al Gore acolyte as Secretary of Energy.  Now since the whole wind scam and carbon trading scam originated on the trading desk of Enron, we shall surely be in good hands with someone who really knows how to get things done.