Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Never Underestimate Complexity

Net Imports of Oil into the U.S. continue to rapidly decline.

From a peak of 13,354,000 barrels per day in October of 2005 to November of 2013's rate of 5,334 barrels of oil per day.

Yes, the U.S. is fast on its way to "energy independence". The rate of change in this  metric is simply breathtaking. And while domestic production has also risen dramatically (and 1mm bpd of ethanol, or 650k bpd of oil equivalent btu's, must be added), up 2.6 million bpd, that net increase of 3.25 mpd has not been enough to offset the decline of imports - which has left the U.S. with $100+ per barrel Oil, and the world price at $110+.

Domestic oil production have increased at a rate of 300,000 bpd each year for the past 8 years (not including ethanol), and oil imports have declined at a rate of 1,000,000 bpd per year. At this rate, the U.S. will be "energy independent" in 5 years...

Of course, that's not true. Canada will continue exporting to the U.S. at +or- 2.5 mpd for at least a decade or 2.

Me thinks the Syllogism looks like this:

Remove Canada's 2005 2mm bpd thru 2012 2.5 mpd imports. 

In the period 2005 - 2013 , 11,354,000 of non-Canadian imports declines to 2,834,000 of non-Canadian Oil imports... at this rate of change we have 3 years left of Oil imports into North America (Canada is in North America), at which point North America will no longer be "import land" nor "export land" (using Jeff Brown's narrative).

Will U.S. domestic supply be able to increase by nearly 3,000,000 bpd over the next 3 years? Will the U.S. use force to divert South American Oil? Anything is possible... but I think the best possible outcome is a 900k bpd increase in domestic production... and the worst is no increase at all, followed by a fairly rapid decline in domestic production.

I give almost a zero probability of non-Canadian imports happening in any important volumes by 2020. Argentina has joined the ranks of former oil exporters turned oil importers. Mexico is maybe 5 years away. Iraq better come with it... and right away.

So... this is it. The wind, solar, Natural Gas, electric car, Singularity, technophiles, or what-have-you folks have got to come through. Right now. If not, if Iraq does not step up and if solar/wind & Co. turns out to be a mirage... the recession that is coming our way will be the stuff of legend. If you think people were keeping their houses cold (think propane) this winter you ain't seen nothing yet.


I am not poetic enough to describe the political implications of this should the Iraq miracle or the wind/solar, et al thing fail us. Of course, they might pull it off. If Fracking and ethanol had not come along when they did, the U.S. would look a great deal more like Europe does today. We were lucky. Will that luck continue is looking very questionable at the moment.

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