Hail Shale
US Energy Consumption Nearly Eclipsed by Surging Production

2015 was another big year for American energy, as for the sixth straight time the sum total of our production grew—and came quite close to equalling the amount of energy we consumed. The EIA reports:

[E]nergy production reached a record 89 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), equivalent to 91% of total U.S. energy consumption. Liquid fuels production drove the increase, with an 8% increase for crude oil and a 9% increase for natural gas plant liquids. Natural gas production also increased 5%. These gains more than offset a 10% decline in coal production. […]

U.S. primary energy net imports declined for the 10th consecutive year. Imports rose 2%, but that increase was outpaced by a 6% increase in exports. Petroleum products accounted for 71% of U.S. primary energy exports. […]

After increasing in 2013 and 2014, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption fell by 2% in 2015. An increase in natural gas used for power generation, largely replacing coal, was the primary reason for this decrease, as natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal.

It’s important to caveat this achievement, though. The fact that the amount of energy we produce is nearing the amount we consume does not mean that we’re close to being able to wall ourselves off from global energy markets. Take oil as an example. The shale boom has boosted our crude production by 40 percent in a matter of years, but even if we were able to drill more than we require, we would still import and export plenty of oil—producers will look to sell their cargoes wherever they can fetch the best price, and the oil market is a particularly global and liquid one. Energy independence, therefore, is something of a myth.

But the effect the shale boom is having on our collective energy security is undeniable, and it ought to be getting credit for the economic and geopolitical boon it has been.

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