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ENERGY: Hydrocarbons in North America by J. David Hughes

ENERGY: Hydrocarbons in North America by J. David Hughes

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"The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable, energy-dense "fossilized sunshine" is often lost on those who believe that renewable energy sources can supplant hydrocarbons at anything like today's level of energy consuption. Thus it is prudent to examine the prognosis for fossil fuels within North America, as they will make up the bulk of our energy consuption for many decades to come."
"The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable, energy-dense "fossilized sunshine" is often lost on those who believe that renewable energy sources can supplant hydrocarbons at anything like today's level of energy consuption. Thus it is prudent to examine the prognosis for fossil fuels within North America, as they will make up the bulk of our energy consuption for many decades to come."

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Aug 30, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/09/2015

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The Post Carbon Reader Series: Energy
Hydrocarbons in North America
By J. David Hughes
 
About the Author
David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied theenergy resources of Canada for nearly four decades,including thirty-two years with the Geological Surveyof Canada as a scientist and research manager. Over the past decade he has researched, published, and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues withinNorth America and internationally. He has been inter- viewed extensively on radio and television, and his workhas been featured in
Canadian Business
,
Walrus
maga-zine, and Thomas Homer-Dixon’s book
Carbon Shift 
(2009). Hughes is a Fellow of Post Carbon Institute.Post Carbon Institute© 2010613 4th Street, Suite 208Santa Rosa, California 95404 USAThis publication is an excerpted chapter from
The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’sSustainability Crises
, Richard Heinberg and DanielLerch, eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2010).For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visithttp://www.postcarbonreader.com.
 
HDRCARBNS N NRTH AERCA1 THE PST CARBN READER SERES
North America is at the top of the food chain whenit comes to consuming energy: Its inhabitants havenearly four times the average global per capita energyconsumption.
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Although Mexicans consume less thanthe global average, Americans consume 4.5 times andCanadians nearly 6 times as much. In absolute num-bers, we in North America consume one-quarter of the world’s primary energy production, even though wemake up less than 7 percent of the world’s population.North America’s massive energy diet is largely madeup of hydrocarbons—a full 83 percent comes from oil,gas, and coal, and if we include nuclear energy, 91 per-cent comes from nonrenewable fuel sources. In 2008,North America consumed 27 percent of the world’s oil production, 25 percent of natural gas production, and18 percent of coal production. Most of the rest of ourenergy consumption was derived from nuclear powerand large hydropower, with renewable energy sourcessuch as biomass, wind, photovoltaics, and geothermalmaking up less than 2 percent of our total. Moreover,despite a several-fold growth in non-hydropowerrenewable energy sources,
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nonrenewable sources arestill forecast to supply 88 percent of our primary energyconsumption by 2030 (figure 17.1).The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable,energy-dense “fossilized sunshine” is often lost onthose who believe that renewable energy sources cansupplant hydrocarbons at anything like today’s levelof energy consumption. Thus it is prudent to examinethe prognosis for fossil fuels within North America,as they will make up the bulk of our energy consump-tion for many decades to come.
3
The North Americanfossil-fuel story is largely driven by consumption in theUnited States, the biggest user of energy in the worldand, until China overtook it in 2006, the biggest car-bon dioxide emitter. Also critical to this story is the vulnerability of the U.S. economy given its addictionto hydrocarbons. It is highly dependent on importedoil and may soon be dependent on imported natural
 
Nonrenewable energysources are forecast to supply88 percent of our primaryenergy consumption by 2030.
1401201008060402016002025202020152010 Year2005200019951990 2030
   Q   u   a    d   r   i    l    l   i   o   n   B   t   u   p   e   r   Y   e   a   r
 N o n r  e n e w a b   l     e 8   8   %
History Forecasts
20% growth 2009–2030OilNatural GasCoalNuclearHydro/Renewables
Figure 17.1
History and forecasts of North American energy consumption by fuel,1990–2030.
Source: Data from U.S. Energy nformation Administration,
InternationalEnergy Outlook 2009
, DE/EA-0484, ay 27, 2009,http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/.

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