America adds more sources to its energy arsenal

Ramped-up oil and gas output, more efficiency and greater use of alternatives, including geothermal, push the US closer to energy independence.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 27, 2013 10:07AM

Power station ©, Flickr, Getty ImagesIs America indeed on the way to weaning itself off foreign oil? A lot of experts seem to think so.


In its annual global report released late last year, the International Energy Agency projected the U.S. would become the world's largest oil producer around 2020, temporarily overtaking Saudi Arabia. And thanks in part to new light oil and shale gas resources, as well as the introduction of more energy-efficient technologies, the U.S. could become a net oil exporter by 2030.


However, as the report points out, no country is an energy island.


Competitive international power markets, it notes, "are creating stronger links between gas and coal markets, while these markets also need to adapt to the increasing role of renewables and, in some cases, to the reduced role of nuclear power."


In addition, alternative and renewable energy sources are making up a growing percentage of America's new power-generating capacity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the use of electricity generated by solar power more than tripled between late 2009 and mid-2012 -- while most of the new U.S. generators built over the past 15 years are powered by either natural gas or wind.


And another alternative and renewable power source, geothermal energy created by the Earth's heat, is apparently getting ready for prime time.


The Geothermal Energy Association, an industry trade group, says in its latest annual report that installed geothermal capacity in the U.S. grew by 5% compared to the previous, to just over 147 megawatts (MW). While that's a relatively modest amount -- a megawatt can provide power to about 1,000 homes -- the association expects the amount of U.S. power generated by geothermal energy to keep climbing.


In fact, according to GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell, the geothermal energy sector is steaming.


"The U.S. is posed to add 1,000 MW of geothermal power, more than 10 times as much geothermal capacity as during the previous decade," he said in a press statement. "And [Tuesday's] report indicates that there are over 2,500 MW more that could come online in the next decade. We are headed to 6,000 MW of geothermal, but could do much more."


Geothermal power plants are currently up and running in eight states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. And geothermal development projects are reportedly underway in Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington State.


The industry is looking for federal incentives similar to the ones extended to the solar and wind energy sectors, "to spur investors to undertake the risk of investing in new geothermal projects," says Gawell. After all, the more energy sources the nation can tap, the better off it will be.


More on moneyNOW


Feb 27, 2013 1:56PM
Anything that weans us off Middle East Oil is a step in the right direction. If we could pull our troops out of that part of the world, we could save billions in the cost of keeping them there, billions in the cost of propping up corrupt dictators with phony medals all over their chest, and thousands of American lives lost for protecting our oil interests in looney land.
Feb 27, 2013 11:15AM
Having all the energy in the world will do us no good if the gov won't let us transform it into a usable material.  Having oil doesn't mean much if we can't refine it.  Having natural gas doesn't mean much if the EPA blocks every attempt at extracting it and setting up infrastructure so we can use it to run vehicles.   Attempts to build clean coal and nuclear plants are essentially blocked at every turn.  And now we can't set up wind farms in certain places because a couple of birds get confused and chopped to bits.  The EPA won't let us dam up rivers and create hydro-power.  Energy independence means nothing if we are forbidden to use that energy.
Feb 27, 2013 1:45PM
By building automobiles to run on CNG we can become totally energy independent within a few years and begin down the path to being the largest exporter of oil. We have pretty good hybrid technology that could be coupled with already proven safe and cheap CNG. CNG runs super clean, is safer than gasoline we ride around with in a thin plastic tank, and it doesn't require costly refineries that for years have been the cause of price hikes. A CNG hybrid would easily go 400 miles on a tank and cost no more than current gasoline hybrids to produce. CNG is going for around $2 a gasoline gallon equivalent. The Honda GX has been sold for years and you can fuel it at home safely. Also there are lots of filling stations country wide. Truckers are converting over in droves. Fueling is safer than gasoline, no spills that can damage ground water, lead to a fire, and natural gas vapors are not a carcinogen. There is data showing more gasoline station fires per 1000 fill ups than CNG and a CNG fire remains contained, where a gasoline fire spreads rapidly across the ground and engulfs the area even after the supply is interrupted. Natural gas is our best chance to save our economy and start to enrich our country through exports of oil and we wouldn't have to import a drop. We have to start converting over now because oil over $40 a bbl. is killing our economy and we can't compete globally without cheap energy.

I'm just a realist who doesn't buy into Green Energy political hype. We have enough natural gas to last us for centuries, and a few decades down the road the technology may make it economically feasible for more green energy to stand on it's own merits without costing society 30 times more to produce the same net result. We could solve our trade deficit and become a wealthy nation just like the countries in the oil cartel.

Feb 27, 2013 12:04PM

WSJ (2/27/13) California Girds for Electricity Woes.


In a nutshell, (subsidized) wind & solar energy are displacing conventional (penalized) power capacity to the point where conventional power is being taken permanently off line.  It seem that by 2020 to 2022 there will be insufficient conventional power to balance capacity when the wind won't blow and/or the sun won't shine.


Could be interesting as they,CA, whine with the best of them.


Feb 27, 2013 11:42AM

compared to 40 years ago, we are certainly much better. 


but it's still all about the cash involved.  and big cash involves big people, which involves confrontations with other root cause interests. 


There is a law that says the USA cannot export raw oil.   The law is being side stepped by the "condensing" of the oil into "refined' fuels like Kerosene that can be exported.   We have the oil, it is going overseas while the Americans are paying more for gas that is refined here.   Only makes sense if you understand this is a free market system, however we are in a trade deficit with China for US $315 billion.   Where do a lot of the condensates go  - you guessed it, Asia and it still doesn't balance out our deficit spending.   Americans only have themselves to blame.

Exports of our natural resources are going up by exponential amounts.   Coal and Natural gas are on the list of exports leaving here at a fast pace.

Feb 27, 2013 2:56PM

I would love to look at the potential for piezoelectrics in our urban sidewalks.  Not something that would work everywhere but times square is always full of people walking around.  Same goes for the steps leading in and out of the subways in midtown Manhattan.  The other thing I've wondered about is pressure plates at our busiest intersections - cars drive over them which could pump liquid back and forth across turbine blades.  Do that at the entrance to the lincoln tunnel and maybe they wouldn't have to raise the damn tolls every year.

Feb 27, 2013 3:06PM
Then let's pull out of the Persian Gulf and let Europe worry about it.
Feb 27, 2013 1:10PM

Go for whatever we can in order to stop putting thousands of 500 foot (50 stories) wind turbines next to homes with NO compensation what so ever!


These monstrosities are noisy AND they are rotating, causing flicker in homes for hours every day with flashing red lights.!

Feb 27, 2013 3:17PM
I would imagine almost all Congressional homes are kept comfy 24 hours a day, year round.  I'm sure they don't have to turn off the heat or air when they will be away a few hours.  On 175,000 yearly, what is a 200 dollar power bill or a $75 dollar fill-up? It is my belief we need to put Congress in our shoes. They should not be allowed to set their own salary and benefits. They should not be allowed campaign contributions from outside their district. They should only be paid the average annual individual income for their district. After all, they only work part time and get full time, overpaid, pay. That is not right. They should have an opinion poll toward the end of their first year in office to determine their salary for the second year and a similar poll for each year afterwards. That percentage should be multiplied by their current years salary to calculate the next year's salary. They should be paid at least minimum wage. This would put them on MERIT pay and would weed out those only there for money and benefits.
Feb 27, 2013 12:08PM
Don't suppose the oil lobby has anything to do with it do you?
Feb 27, 2013 3:32PM
Don't see any mention of how much the cost of alternative fuels are as compared to natural gas and oil.  Typical left wing article and the left wing nuts that subscribe to it don't care because they government handouts anyway.
Feb 27, 2013 3:44PM
So, $5.00/gallon gas is now the new normal? I'm waiting to buy the first geo-thermal powered car.
Feb 27, 2013 3:18PM
Can we presume prices will come down according\y ...
Feb 27, 2013 2:22PM
Just more msnbc's pro-Obama nonsense!!!!
Feb 27, 2013 3:37PM
That's great news, as long as you don't mind swimming in Quaker State in the Gulf of Mexico or sitting in your backyard next to Fracking.
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