Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

An Energetic Discussion About Energy

Thursday, October 3, 2013
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In his book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, President Obama wrote, “A nation that can’t control its energy sources can’t control its future.”

The president’s statement is something with which everyone ought to agree, whether a conservationist or a developer, an isolationist or a globalist, a conservative or a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican, an atheist or a believer.

But disagreement begins almost immediately after the discussion turns to what type of energy sources we want in our nation’s future.

On the one hand, the U.S. has an abundance of coal, natural gas, and oil, all of which are sources of energy. These fossil fuels helped start and sustain the Industrial Revolution, and they continue to play an important role in our lives today. On the other hand, we have an abundance of ocean waves, sunshine, and wind that are also sources of energy.

In 2011, solar and wind provided approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. energy demand, and nuclear (8 percent), hydroelectric (3 percent), wood (2 percent), biofuels (2 percent), geothermal and waste conversion (1.5 percent) served the demand, too. But compare them to the 82 percent of U.S. energy demand in 2011 that was met by fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas. (All these statistics come from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a part of the U.S. Department of Energy, for 2011.) Overall, oil provided more than one-third of that 2011 energy requirement.

And if something is flying in our skies, floating on our waters, rolling on our highways, or plowing in our fields, it is very likely powered by a petroleum-based fuel. Oil provides approximately 94 percent of our transportation demand. But when it comes to electricity, only one percent comes from oil-fired generation facilities. The numbers tell it plainly: Oil makes transportation fuels, not electricity. Conversely, solar and wind make electricity, not transportation fuels.

If you consider the purposes for which oil is used, it means we could increase one hundred-fold our solar arrays and wind turbines and not alleviate our need for oil, at least not to any measurable degree in the foreseeable future. Without question, this could change; however, the change would need to be profound indeed.

The EIA estimates by 2035 our total energy demand will be 121 percent of what it is currently. And of that increased demand, EIA projects almost 37 percent will be met by oil. Bottom line: 22 years from now, we are going to use more oil than we use today.

In California, we use approximately 1.8 million barrels of crude oil each day; that is almost 76 million gallons. Almost to the last drop, all of the oil California uses is refined here, in the Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and San Francisco metropolitan areas, as well as south San Luis Obispo County.

Our refineries provide all of the transportation fuels (gasoline, diesel, Jet A) that are so vital to our economy, along with a plethora of other petroleum-based products that are embedded extensively into our daily lives (plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics).

Of the oil refined in California, about 500,000 barrels is produced in-state. The remaining 1.3 million barrels are imported. Reducing our imported oil to dollars and cents, it calculates to over $100 million sent out of state every day.

Recently, some oil has begun arriving by train in California from other states, but most of our daily imports come to us by boats traveling the Pacific Ocean. A partial list of countries from which oil is imported includes Angola, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

Do you think the oil we purchase elsewhere is produced to higher environmental standards than is oil produced here? Do you think it makes sense to purchase from a foreign country a product that we could produce here? Do you think it makes sense to acquire over two-thirds of our oil from places that are, on average, 7,700 miles away and incur in the process both the cost of transportation as well as the risks associated with long-distance seaborne transit?

Or does it make more sense to use oil produced here where we know there is oversight to protect air quality, biological assets, and water resources. There is oversight to ensure careful planning, sound engineering, and quality construction. There is oversight to confirm proper waste management, workplace safety, and emergency preparedness. There is oversight to verify ongoing compliance and accurate reporting. The list goes on. Oil produced in California is regulated broadly and thoroughly.

One of the main arguments against oil is based upon concerns about its carbon content. More specifically, there is concern about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that result when oil is used. CO2 is thought to be one of the main contributors to global warming. It was this specific concern that led to passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB32.

AB32 ensures that California CO2 emissions will decline to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Further reductions beyond that are likely. An Executive Order signed by former Governor Schwarzenegger set a greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in California. Our state is well on its way to meeting the 2020 target; in fact, California is well on its way to achieving the 2050 reduction goal.

Taking into account both environmental and economic considerations, there is no reason why everyone — conservationists and developers, isolationists and globalists, conservatives and liberals, democrats and republicans, atheists and believers — should not agree about something else President Obama believes.

While touring the University of Miami Industrial Assessment Center in Miami, Florida, in early 2012, the President said: “If we’re going to take control of our energy future … we’ve got to have a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.” That includes oil, a resource we are fortunate to have in great abundance in the north part of Santa Barbara County.

David Pratt is president of Santa Maria Energy. If you have a specific question about oil, please go to and ask. Pratt can be reached through


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If your going to pump it locally, keep it Locally!

dou4now (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 6:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hydrocarbons are old tech, if the Nation was looking forward, more money would be spent on Nuclear Fusion Research. We need a JFK figure that challenges us to go to the Moon, or in this case develop energy for the next century.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 12:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with keeping the valley green. We need some of that exceptionalism that people keep claiming is still alive in the hearts of Americans. People think they are JFK, Ben Franklin, Einstein, when they are really only Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachman, and Barack Obama. Time will tell, can the current pack lead into exceptionalism? Not when the focus is on greed and the present without regard for the future.

spacey (anonymous profile)
October 3, 2013 at 2:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

From the "I said it before, I'll say it again" category:

I think that we (the government) prefer to import foreign oil, so that whatever reserves we sit upon will be the last usable reserves. As the author said, "Oil makes transportation fuels," and those fuels are used for moving war machines: Naval vessels, jets, tanks, and troop carriers.

The government can (and has) been blowing smoke about dependence on foreign oil since at least the Nixon administration, and most of us aren't going to be concerned until there's no oil (fuel) left. And by then, I doubt that the last of it will be available to the public, but rather to the military.

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February 20, 2014 at 1:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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