Energy Independence

Independence Day is almost upon us. This Friday, July 4th, our nation will celebrate the United States of America’s 238th birthday or, at the very least, it’s independence from Great Britain. Across the country people will fire up their grills, head to the pool, and celebrate their independence. So, we thought this week would be a great time to write a blog post about the subject of Energy Independence.


U.S. Energy Flow 2013

In recent years, politicians, public policy experts, op-ed writers, bloggers, and others have all talked a lot about the idea of “energy independence”. In President Obama’s January 2014 State of the Union Address he stated, “Today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration from early June shows that in 2013 the United States used 97.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads). The U.S. was able to produce 81.7 quads domestically, which means the U.S. is actually 84% energy independent. So, how close are the United States to achieving energy independence? And what would it mean if 100% of domestic energy usage was produced on American soil?

Domestic Energy Production

Well, the truth is that the United States have been “energy independent” before. In the 1950s the United States was a net exporter of energy, mostly oil and coal. That means the U.S. produced enough energy to meet domestic demand. Gradually, over the following half-century the U.S. demand for energy grew faster than the domestic supply. As a result, the U.S. began to import energy to meet the nation’s energy demands. The percentage of domestically produced energy reached a nadir in 2005 as imports reached about 30% of U.S. energy consumption. However, the U.S. has been able to reverse the trend, largely due to an increase in natural gas and renewable energy.  Natural gas has grown to constitute 30% of domestic energy production, and renewables have grown to 11% of domestic production.

The Future of Energy Independence

So, what will the future of energy independence look like for the United States? It is difficult to predict the future. Most analysts predict that there will be an increase in natural gas and renewable production and consumption. But maybe some other, yet unknown energy source will be invented. What we do know is that energy efficiency could go a long way towards reducing our energy usage and helping us meet domestic production of energy.