THE COMING IMPORT CRUNCH

Our old friend, Richard Heinberg, in his Museletter #218 has provided an interesting set of statistics that are sure to give you pause.  According to his calculations, between 2005 and 2008, U.S. net imports fell from 12.5 million barrels per day to 11 million barrels per day – a decline of about 1.5 million barrels per day. During that same time period, China and India’s combined imports rose from 4.6 to 6 million barrels per day, or close to 1.5 million barrels per day. So, it looks like, as we use less, they are using more and essentially taking up all the excess slack.

But here’s the real kicker, according to Heinberg, if we extrapolate these trends, China and India’s net oil imports would exceed U.S. net oil imports some time around 2013 – about three years from now.  And  here’s the worst part of it. If we express China and India’s net oil imports as a percentage of the exports from the top five net oil exporters (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE) China and India went from importing the equivalent of 19% of these countries’ combined net oil exports in 2005 to importing 27% of their combined net oil exports in 2008. Heinberg then goes on to conclude that, extrapolating on that trend, China and India will be importing the equivalent of 100% of the combined net oil exports from the top five oil exporters sometime around 2019. I graphed the situation and it looks like this:

Which means that if you’re worried about our continued dependence on foreign oil, you can stop.  Our oil import problem is about to solve itself in the form of, well, no more oil for us to import.  I guess that’s good.  Unless, like me, you think the only thing worse than foreign oil is no oil at all.  

Of course, that can’t be possible.  Mainly because it would be unimaginably bad for my lifestyle. And since I can’t imagine it, it can’t happen, right?  Besides, everyone knows that trends lines on graphs never continue uninterrupted. Something will happen to alter the extrapolated curve – tar sands, oil shale, visitors from outer space, whatever. Bottom line is, I don’t care what these peak oil doomers would have me believe with their graphs and their statistics and their charts. The American way of life is non negotiable. So, something will happen to alter our fate. That’s just reality. And, in recognition of this reality, I have created my own graph. And here it is:

Basically, what I’ve done is pushed and pulled a few assumptions and parameters, and voila, the problem is solved on my terms. I call it the economist’s graph. You’ll probably notice the big bump that really makes the difference out at the end of the trend line. That’s the new energy source that we haven’t discovered yet but that I am sure we will any day. That’s big. But, don’t take my word for it. Ask any expert, except Richard Heinberg. The guy just can’t read a graph.

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