America produced an average of 7.5 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2013, an increase of one million barrels per day and the biggest one-year jump in the nation’s history, FuelFix reported Thursday. The U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA) estimates production will grow by another one million barrels in 2014 and will peak at a whopping 9.5 million barrels per day in 2016.
And the production surge doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. According to FuelFix, “the Gulf of Mexico also is seeing a boost, with oil production expected to grow to 1.4 million barrels per day in 2014, up by 100,000 barrels.”
Despite the oil boom already well underway, the Associated Press reported this week that the Obama administration was seeking to ‘clean up’ coal by capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and using it to force more oil out of the ground.
“Obama has spent more than $1 billion on carbon-capture projects tied to oil fields and has pledged billions more for clean coal,” according to the AP report. While the administration has touted the environmental benefits of carbon-capture, some are skeptical of a plan that seeks to reduce carbon emissions by increasing the production of another fossil fuel — which will only emit more CO2 when burned.
Fueling the criticism, AP notes that “the administration also did not evaluate the global warming emissions associated with the oil production when it proposed requiring power plants to capture carbon.”
And the report cites a 2009 peer-reviewed paper which “found that for every ton of carbon dioxide injected underground into an oil field, four times more carbon dioxide is released when the oil produced is burned.”
The administration counters that the oil would be extracted regardless and will help bolster U.S. energy security by producing more energy domestically. From a climate perspective, however, that logic is less convincing.
As climate change spirals out of control and the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions becomes even more pressing, U.S. production of carbon-emitting fossil fuels is higher than ever. Noting the country’s record high coal exports and the fact that by the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of both oil and oil and gas combined, Bill McKibben writes in Rolling Stone that “we are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.”
The effects of climate change are manifesting across the country and the world, McKibben explains, in the form of unprecedented drought, flooding, wildfires, and heat and the dramatic reduction of carbon pollution necessary to slow the onslaught of climate change is simply incompatible with an escalation in fossil fuel production.
Citing organizations such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, HSBC “and just about everyone else who’s looked at the question,” McKibben underscores their estimation that humans will have to leave between two-thirds and four-fifths of the planet’s reserves of coal, gas, and oil untouched in order to keep global warming to the commonly accepted threshold of two degrees Celsius.
When asked by the Washington Post’s Wonkblog to select his graph of the year, McKibben chose a graph depicting the U.S. fossil fuel boom and the implications of mining, drilling, and fracking more fossil fuels than ever.
The chart showing “that even as [the United States] makes minor reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions domestically, we are mining and drilling for ever more coal and oil and gas, seems to me crucial,” McKibben explained. “It demonstrates sadly that we really haven’t spent the Obama years working out a new relationship with fossil fuel, which is what we needed to do.”
While the government’s latest plan to reduce the carbon emissions from coal by increasing the production of oil may, as the Associated Press puts it, hit “a political sweet spot,” it misses the much bigger and more pressing issue — in order to address the global crisis that is climate change, fossil fuel production simply cannot continue to escalate.