American Sauce: Energy Crisis 101
April 5th, 2011
11:00 AM ET
11 years ago

American Sauce: Energy Crisis 101


Capitol Hill (CNN) – Oil has just hit a 30-month high, Japan is battling with a potential nuclear disaster and this week marks the anniversary of the deadly Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion.

The potential energy crisis of future years may be sending early transmission signals. Yes, last week (you missed this?) President Obama announced a new(er) energy policy. But still no significant action from Congress or Washington.

Where does the U.S. stand with energy? Listen to this week's American Sauce for a highly-efficient look at the major forms of energy we use, how much we have and quick hits of the pros and cons of each. And we also give you a mental map of nuclear energy in America.

Listen here. Or keep reading.

It's not one energy problem, it's (at least) two.

Problem One: Oil. A transportation problem.
-We've covered this one before at American Sauce. But here's the gist.

-The U.S. imports 50-60 percent of the oil it needs now. That is forecast to decrease, then hover around 45% in future decades. (Source: EIA)

-Under current forecasts, the U.S. has just a fraction of the world's proven oil reserves.

-Here's the key: the U.S. primarily uses oil for transportation (cars, trucks, planes).

-Thus, for the U.S., an oil crunch is a transportation crunch.

Problem Two: Electricity. It touches everything.
-The U.S. depends primarily on four sources: coal (45 percent), natural gas (23 percent), nuclear (20 percent) and renewables (10 percent).

-Source for above: The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.

-Each of those four sources has considerable plusses and minuses. (Listen to them in the podcast, here)

-Quick summary: fossil fuels coal and natural gas are relatively cheap and plentiful. But current technology raises significant concerns and debate about pollution, run-off, emissions and safety. Nuclear power is considered far cleaner when it comes to emissions, but the U.S. has yet to address long term storage of nuclear waste. And renewables, while clean, are not yet able to produce as much power as cheaply as fossil fuels.

What Do You Think? What'd We Miss?

Listen to the show (above) and comment (below).

Follow on Twitter: @LisaDCNN

You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

Filed under: American Sauce • Budget • Energy
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. A Real American

    Shoulda' listened to Jimmy Carter. Haha! (he was a nukular scientist, doncha know)

    April 4, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. terry,va

    Obummie is killing domestic oil and coal with his policies. Meanwhile gas a gallon has gone from $1.79 when he came into office to $3.58. It is over $4 in a lot of the areas in the country. His energy secretary Cho has said he wants gas to go to $6-7 a gallon like Europe so he can push the green agenda. Obummie is the devil in disguise and the quicker people realize it the better. He better hope he still has the kids on his side. You know with them staying on dad's insurance until they are 26 and living in the basement. We are a nation of what can you do for me instead of what can I do for the country.

    April 4, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Dean

    Ask Japan how clean and safe nuclear power is. You can't even turn a nuclear power plant off.

    April 4, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. A Real American

    Gas prices are up because of speculation, moron. Last year saw the highest domestic production ever.

    April 4, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. the real ib

    Great job Obama; gas prices have more than doubled since you took office and you have shut about all the oil drilling down in this country. You want to close coal down. The middle class and senior citizens are drowning under your so called leadership. I'm all for alternative energy but we are a long from there yet. Open up some oil fields where there is actually oil in the ground and get off coal's back. We have more coal than anyone but you and your green energy policy doesn't want it while at the same time you are flying everywhere in AF1 leaving the world's largest carbon footprint. Yeah good job Obama.

    April 4, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. terry,va

    Our government has a wonderful solution to the raising gas prices. Let it go through the roof so we can put in windmills.
    Hey talking about government employees being efficient this week with the shutdown looming. Don't worry government employees will get money for laying at the house. They did the last time. Here is my opinion of government workers....when a air traffic controller fell asleep on the job at Regan International the secretary of transportation's answer was to put another controller in the tower in case one fell asleep. How about getting someone that can DO THE JOB !!!

    April 4, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Padraig

    A Real American, great answer – I am sure you were an individual who led the attacks on President Bush during the price surge. What makes you a real American?

    The President is driving his agenda on going green and if it means that we the citizens pay more then so be it. As the prices go up at the fuel stations then our prices go up for all other commodities that are shipped by vehicle. This is one of the few items the President ran on that he is holding firm. The others like get out of the two wars, has now turned into three. Getting rid of GITMO well that is staying plus the fact we recieve miltary tribunals and on it goes.

    April 4, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. California Conservative

    The crisis is Obama himself on this one. Quit being a pansy and drill as opposed to stopping the drilling here in America and promoting and even financially supporting drilling in other countries such as Brazil and backing Petrobras and Soros.

    April 4, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. Debbie

    The crisis are the republicans. We could be so ahead of the other counties if they wheather not see Obama get credit for anything, but only if he try and fell.
    Republicans, if you do not want to see america get ahead, just get out of the way.

    I;m just waiting on the republicans to blame Obama for the southwest Airline ordeal!

    April 4, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. T'sah from Virginia

    ["How about getting someone that can DO THE JOB !!!] Yep – do the job and still fall asleep!!! You cannot predict this will NOT happen again!!

    This subject is going to continue to be an argument as longs as there is OIL and the top 1% benefits from it!!

    April 4, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  11. jerry

    What's your definition of plentiful? What happens when we reach Peak Oil (assuming it hasn't happened already)? If you think prices are high now, watch what happens when people find out the supply is more limited than they were led to believe.

    April 4, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  12. DC2003

    Ummm ... not too sure where some of these people are getting their information, but ... oil drilling has NOT been stopped in this country! There was a brief moratorium placed on deep water drilling, but thats about it and thats been lifted already.

    Fact is oil companies already have leases on millions of acres of public land for the purpose of oil exploration & drilling. They also have hundreds and hundreds of drilling permits.
    The really sad part is that the majority of those leases and permits usually expire with no work ever being actually done.
    The idea of the oil companies is multi-layered ..
    1) if they are holding these leases and permits, then that pervents another company from getting and using them.

    2) they then can use those leases as a marketing tool to attract investors "XYZ Company holds leases on ?? thousand acres with a potential of xxx million of barrels of oil."
    Just like WorldCom did with their leases of transmission lines .. clearly a lease is an actual expense ... they were listing them as assets!

    Just a slight of hand ... fudging the numbers a bit!!!

    April 4, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  13. w l jones

    If one ask me gas price is to low it should be around ten dollar a gallon thereby people would start using public tranpotation instead driving to nowhere as they do today. Bless.

    April 4, 2011 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  14. walleye46

    Well, the Arab League asked us to join in the fight to oust Khadafy. OK, how about paying some or all of the costs? Like maybe have them ship us oil for the next year without charging us outrageous prices.

    April 4, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  15. GonzoinHouston

    Fossil fuels are cheaper than renewables because they don't include a cost to cover repairing the environmental damage they do. As any child will cheerfully demonstrate, life is always easier in the short run if you don't clean up after yourself. If fossil fuels were taxed to repair the damage they do then renewables would be far cheaper.

    The correct answer on this one is "all of the above". We need domestic drilling, nuclear, renewables, and a tax system that ensures an even playing field. The truth is that the world's demand for oil products, like gas, is growing at a faster rate than the world's capacity to produce them. It takes 5-10 years to bring a major oil field on line, and a similar time to build and start up a new refinery. It isn't a lack of oil in the ground, it's a lack of production capacity that will eventually bite us. At that point, simple economics will force us to act, but by then the cost of our inaction will be painfully high.

    April 4, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  16. Anthony

    "Oil has just hit a 30-month high" means the previous high was one month before that, in 2008, before Obama became president in January 2009. This means the gas price was not $1.79 a gallon when Obama became president. The previous high was during the Bush Administration.

    April 4, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  17. J

    @terry,va – what policies has Obama added that have increased the cost of gas? I keep hearing it is his policies, but noone can tell me what policies.

    April 4, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Part of the issue is how to generate electrical energy with the minimum of environmental damage. If a 40+ year old reactor has to be hit by a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami to have problems, then it just might be built well. We need more fission reactors here until solar, wind, fusion and other forms of power generation can be brought online. We need the new reactors to be generation 4 or better as well as new plants that can use the waste products of reprocessing of spent fuel. As for gasoline, we need to develop new vehicles that use less gasoline or other fuels. That is just what we have to do. We can't have everyone driving a gas guzzler.

    There is no one person or group to blame! We all have to understand how our actions affect and effect everything around us.

    April 5, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. terry,va

    @ J... you have got to be kidding. Obummie has shut down almost all oil drilling in this country. Just the thought of the US drilling brings down oil prices. Can you say supply and demand?

    April 5, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Republican Robber Baron

    Get the facts straight please people. The reason why prices are so high is that the futures commodities brokers have forecasted strong demand from the world markets. Mid-east revolutions also contribute to the sense that demand will continue to rise mostly from emerging markets...while the OPEC nations are paralyzed with fear of rebellion.

    You can regulate Wall Street futures speculators...but you can't control the rising demand. Oil is can spin the facts all you want but that is the truth.

    April 5, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    There's a bit misinformation in some comments.

    Gas prices were at $4 per gallon when Obama took office. One benefit of this "failed stimulus" and Obama economic policy during is first year in office is that it brought the price of a barrel of oil down, and this gas prices fell to well under $3 per gallon.

    The price has gone up over the past year because of the BP Gulf fiasco and more recently because of Middle East unrest and instability. Gas was $1.79 when Bush took office. It was over $4.50 when he left office. Someone has their presidents mixed up.

    April 5, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. ACE

    Nothing will change unless we get rid of the Republican bums in Government.They believe that god put us on earth to destroy it.

    April 5, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Dean

    @terry,va – how about the moratorium on drilling in the gulf. It was lifted just a couple of weeks ago and 2 permits have been issued since then. Trouble is after an 11 month moratorium most companies have left the gulf for other places. Obama and the tree huggers will not let us drill in Alaska, Cal coast. colorado, montana, north dakota and any other place in this country.
    He gave money to Brazil for them to drill for oil that they can then sell to us for more money.

    April 5, 2011 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Dean

    w l jones

    If one ask me gas price is to low it should be around ten dollar a gallon thereby people would start using public tranpotation instead driving to nowhere as they do today. Bless
    Yep and when you get public transportation out to me I will use it to get my crops to the market and adjust your cost of food accordingly. Probable at least double it.

    April 5, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |