How the U.S. Plans to Cut Dependence on Foreign Oil

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    Jan 21, 2014
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The U.S. Department of Energy has placed a high priority on reducing the nation's dependence on oil imported from the Middle East and other parts of the world. The U.S. currently imports about 45 percent of the petroleum it uses. The DOE hopes to reduce this number by turning to new technologies like 3D scanners and underwater robots and controversial extraction techniques like fracking to find and tap new domestic sources for fuel.

The U.S. has abundant oil deposits, but much of it is in areas that have been seen as inaccessible or impossible to drill. The development of new exploration and drilling technologies is breaking down many of the barriers of the past and has caused a steady increase in U.S. oil production over the past five years. Gains in oil productivity can be attributed in large part to increased excavation in Texas and North Dakota where fracking has increase the amount of oil extracted from geologic formations. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping chemicals, sand and millions of gallons of water underground under high pressure to free oil trapped in shale rock formations. Since 2010, fracking has caused oil production to more than double in Texas and triple in North Dakota.
The DOE's efforts to reduce oil imports appear to be successful. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that U.S. oil imports decreased to 7.6 million barrels per day in November of 2012. This is a 40 percent decline from 2006, when daily imports were 12.7 million barrels per day. The decline in oil imports may be due in part to decreased demand. Cars have become more fuel efficient and many consumers have embraced hybrid vehicles. The recent economic downturn has also played a role in slowing down oil consumption. Even so, experts say that an increase of U.S. oil production has definitely reduced the need for foreign oil.

Besides giving the U.S. more economic independence, reducing the dependency on foreign oil imports will increase national security and help free the nation from the threat of conflict. The Middle East and Africa, which are among the world's top oil-producing areas, have been marked by political tension and unrest for decades. Reducing oil imports from these areas will make the U.S. less vulnerable to hostile conditions and conflicts that affect the availability of crude oil.

For U.S. consumers, the nation's growth in domestic oil production doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a significant drop in oil prices. The price of crude oil remains high because it is determined by supply and demand on the world market. Disruptions to the global oil supply can lead to fluctuations in the price of oil, a lesson the U.S. learned during the oil crisis of the 1970s. With growing demand for fuel in developing economies like China and India, there is a distinct possibility that the price of oil will continue to rise. So despite an increase in U.S. oil production, policymakers in Washington can expect continuing pressure from Americans to reduce fuel prices.

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Author Sam Jones often refers people to this page on uSwitch they are intersted in dual fuel and fuel mixing as a way of introducing energy efficiency

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