Intelligent Energy

U.S. in 2035: Oil imports slashed, renewables rise

U.S. in 2035: Oil imports slashed, renewables rise

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The EIA's annual energy outlook projects the U.S. will produce more crude than it has since the early 1990s. If they're right, U.S. dependence on foreign oil could fall dramatically.

Over the next decade or so, the U.S. will produce more of its own crude, increase its use of biofuels and guzzle less gasoline, according to the Energy Information Administration's latest annual energy outlook. If the EIA's projections are right, then the United States is expected to dramatically reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

The full 2012 energy outlook won't be released until April. But preliminary numbers show that domestic production of crude is expected to grow by more than 20 percent over the next 10 years, thanks to the so-called tight oil boom occurring in places like North Dakota, new technology and offshore drilling. In 2010, the U.S. produce 5.5 million barrels of crude a day. That's expected to rise to 6.7 million barrels per day by 2020. Production is expected to decline after 2020, but will still stay above 6.1 million barrels per day through 2035, according to the EIA.

The rise in domestic oil production and an increase in biofuels use of more than 1 million barrels per day by 2024 plus fuel economy and efficiency standards for cars and trucks will have the net effect of slashing foreign oil imports -- and by a lot. The U.S. imported 60 percent of its petroleum in 2005. By 2035, the U.S. is projected to import 36 percent of its petroleum.

Renewable energy

On the electricity front, renewable energy continues to spread across the United States while reliance on coal-fired power plants begins to decline, the EIA says. Renewable energy's share of power generation is projected to grow from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent by 2035. It's primary competiton, natural gas power generation, rises as well from 24 percent to 27 percent over the same period.

The good news here is that coal's share of electricity generation falls to 39 percent. That's well below the 49-percent share seen as recently as 2007.

Put all of the above together -- coal's slow demise, fuel efficiency standards, lower demand for transportation fuels, stricter environmental regulations and the greater use of renewables -- and the U.S. sees its carbon dioxide emissions stay flat. This is a could-have-been-worse type of projections.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to remain below their 2005 level through 2035. But we're still far from meeting the Obama Administration's pledge to reduce emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Photo: Continental Resources

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure