We’re Number One — literally.
At least when it comes to oil. Domestic production accounted for 98 percent of global production increase last year, according to the latest issue of British Petroleum’s Statistical Review of World Energy (2019).
The United States is also now the world’s leading oil producer — extracting 15.3 million barrels per day, a record. So what happened to “Peak Oil”?
This is the hypothesis — as distinct from theory, which in science is used to denote a phenomenon largely proven by observation and testing — that the well is running dry. We’ve been told it has been running dry since the 1950s when Peak Oil was first postulated by geologist M. King Hubbert.
It has also been used since that time to justify elaborate, expensive “alternatives” to oil, on the assumption that soon there would be no alternative.
Some of these “alternatives” morphed into rent-seeking boondoggles, one of the most notorious examples being the Renewable Fuel Standard of the early 2000s, which forces the American taxpayer — and the American driver — to finance and subsidize the production of ethanol alcohol, which is then blended into the national gasoline supply.
Currently, almost all of the gasoline sold in the United States is actually 10 percent ethanol alcohol — and President Trump recently approved the sale of “gas” that contains 15 percent ethanol.
Ethanol is made primarily from corn stock in the United States (rather than sugar cane, as in countries like Brazil) and is considered “renewable” for this reason.
Which it is, strictly speaking.
But it’s very debatable whether it’s worth “renewing” — given the abundance of oil, right here in the United States. Oil that is also much less energy-intensive to turn into 100 percent gasoline — as well as more energy-dense than “gas” adulterated by 10-15 percent ethanol.
Pure gasoline contains about 114,000 BTUs per gallon; E10 — or “gas” that is 10 percent ethanol — contains a bit more than 111,000 BTUs per gallon. This translates into a reduction in miles per gallon of about 2 percent or so as well as a noticeable increase in the cost at the pump because it costs more to turn corn into ethanol than it does to turn oil into gasoline.
There’s irony here, given the government’s regulatory demands that the car industry meet ever-higher fuel economy fleet averages in the name of saving energy — and saving money.
Returning to 100 percent gas in Americans’ tanks would achieve both. And it would so so without resorting to complex and expensive technological “solutions” such as cars with engines that automatically turn themselves off every time the car stops moving (restarting when the driver takes his foot off the brake pedal and pushes down on the accelerator pedal), high-pressure direct injection (which is causing expensive carbon fouling in engines so equipped) and elaborate “mild-hybrid” drivetrains with 48 volt electrical systems.
And, of course, without resorting to electric cars — the least costly of which (Nissan’s $30,000 Leaf EV) cost twice as much as an equivalent non-electric compact economy car, only go half as far — and take at least five to six times as long to recharge as it takes to refuel a non-electric vehicle. Assuming you can find a “fast” charger.
EVs also require massive federal subsidies to coax people into buying them — who otherwise wouldn’t.
But American politicians — especially at the national level — are terrified of upsetting the agribusiness giants who profit from the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate and who can bring to bear tremendous pressure in electorally critical farm states, especially Iowa.
It is arguable — even probable — that the president approved E15 in anticipation of the not-far-off 2020 election. His opponent — whomever it turns out to be — will almost certainly have to bend the knee.
Not to Big Oil, but to Big Agra.
Alcohol does have some merit as a fuel. It burns very cleanly and it is an octane enhancer — which is why it is a popular fuel on the racing circuit.
But gasoline also burns very cleanly in a modern car engine; the difference in exhaust emissions when burning E10 or E15 is negligible — at a not-so-negligible cost in dollars and cents as well as miles per gallon — because internal combustion engines have been chemically scrubbed such that more than 96 percent of the compounds that contribute to smog and respiratory problems in humans have already been controlled.
Meanwhile, ethanol-laced fuel is corrosive — due to the alcohol — and can cause serious problems in older vehicles (and power equipment) not designed to use it safely.
Some of this might make sense if America were on the verge of running out of oil or at the mercy of hostile oil-producing nations.
But given America’s energy independence, the time has come to question the idea of unnecessary “alternatives” that cost rather than save Americans money.
Reprinted with permission from - Inside Sources - by Eric Peters