Energy by the Numbers
Sound energy policy must be rooted in fact rather than fiction and reason rather than emotion. Recently, the Institute for Energy Research released a well-researched, extensively-cited, easy-to-read primer on energy. We encourage you to read all 68 pages of Hard Facts: An Energy Primer. For those who want a cliff notes version, a few key facts are provided below.
- In 2011, the United States produced 23.0 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the world’s largest natural gas producer.
- In 2011, the United States produced 5.67 million barrels of oil per day, making it the world’s third largest oil producer.
- Proved conventional oil reserves worldwide more than doubled from 642 billion barrels in 1980 to more than 1.3 trillion barrels in 2009.
- The United States is home to the richest oil shale deposits in the world—estimates are there are about 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil in U.S. oil shale deposits, nearly four times that of Saudi Arabia’s proved oil reserves.
- The United States has 261 billion tons of coal in its proved coal reserves. These are the world’s largest coal reserves and over 27 percent of the world’s proved coal reserves.
- The United States produces nearly 1.1 billion short tons of coal a year, making it the world’s second largest coal producer.
- China produces over 3.5 billion short tons a year.
- The United States has 486 billion tons of coal in its demonstrated reserve base, enough domestic coal to use for the next 485 years at current rates of consumption. These estimates do not include Alaska’s coal resources, which according to government estimates, are larger than those in the lower 48 states.
- The federal government leases less than 3 percent of federal lands for oil and natural gas production—2.2 percent of federal offshore areas and less than 5.4 percent of federal onshore lands.
- The world could hold more than 700 quadrillion (700,000 trillion) cubic feet of methane hydrates—more energy than all other fossil fuels combined.
Renewables and Nuclear:
- In 2011, wind power produced 1.2 percent of the energy used in the United States.
- In 2011, solar power produced 0.1 percent of the energy used in the United States.
- Total federal subsidies in fiscal year 2007 were $24.34 per megawatt hour for solar-generated electricity and $23.37 per megawatt hour for wind, compared with $1.59 for nuclear, $0.67 for hydroelectric power, $0.44 for conventional coal, and $0.25 for natural gas and petroleum liquids.
- In fiscal year 2010, the subsidies were even higher. For solar power, they were $775.64 per megawatt hour, for wind $56.29, for nuclear $3.14, for hydroelectric power $0.82, for coal $0.64 and for natural gas and petroleum liquids $0.64.
- In 2011, hydroelectric power contributed 3.3 percent of the energy used in the United States and 7.9 percent of the electricity.
- Today, there are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States and construction began for all of these reactors prior to 1974.
- Since 1970, the six so-called “criteria pollutants” have declined by 63 percent, even though the generation of electricity from coal-fired plants has increased by over 180 percent, gross domestic product has increased by 204 percent, energy consumption has increased by 40 percent, and vehicle miles traveled have increased by 168 percent.
- Energy use per person in the United States fell 12 percent between 1979 and 2010 from 359 million BTUs to 317 million BTUs per person.
- Energy intensity—energy consumption per dollar of GDP—fell by 52 percent between 1973 and 2011.
- In 2010, China was responsible for 24 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In comparison, the United States, the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, emitted 17 percent of the global total.
- China’s CO2 emissions increased by 167 percent between 1999 and 2009, while CO2 emissions from the United States decreased by 4.4 percent over the same 10-year period.
- Renewable energy subsidies were 49 times greater than fossil fuel subsidies when comparing the amount of energy produced per dollar of subsidy.
- In 2009, renewables received a 77 percent share of total federal energy incentives while fossil fuels received a 13 percent share but produced 7 times the energy.
We are agnostic on energy resources. It is our strong belief that the choice of energy resources should come from the demands of the free market, and not from the preferences of policymakers, lobbyists, or special interest groups. Subsidies only encourage lawmakers to pick winners and losers in the energy industry that distort the market and end up costing consumers more.