The Burning Question: How Does America Lower Its Oil Use?

The Question Will the US Keep Depending on Oil and Gas

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By now, most people in this country understand or at least are aware that America must lower its oil use. But, how did we get here? First, the oil industry literally fueled the American industrial revolution. During the 1920s, several American household businesses grew into worldwide corporate giants. Additionally, throughout the prohibition years, oil was the lifeblood of the “roaring twenties”.

But what will happen to Americans when we run out of oil? Early 20th century America feared this terrifying prospect. Nonetheless, this could actually happen in our lifetime. We need to take a very serious look at our dependence on fossil fuels. The vital question is: will the US keep depending on oil? These and other questions and topics are interesting and included in this article. So, if this piques your interest, we invite you to continue reading to see where this goes.

How does America lower its foreign oil use?

The Department of Energy said confidently that the US will substantially lower its dependence on foreign oil. According to Cherise Threewitt, editor of a popular science website, the US will cut the importation of oil by as much as 45 percent. Yet, lowering our dependency on foreign oil does not solve the problem. Rather, we must sever our dependence on oil and gas completely. 

Companies like Shell, BP, and TransCanada claim oil and gas are good for America. Environmentalists disagree. The damage that the oil and gas industry has caused to the environment is a proven fact. Their production processes produced large amounts of toxic pollution. And this industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Plus, oil production centers harm the ocean. 

Environmentalists from around the country agree. As we will discuss, conquering our addiction to oil and gas is the key to securing the future of the planet.

How long has the US been dependent on oil and gas?

Oil is easily the most important commodity on the world stage.  Countries that produce large quantities of oil have become incredibly wealthy.  As a result, constant conflicts and disruptions persist in those countries over the control of oil.  For example, government politics in the Persian Gulf revolve around the control of oil supplies.  Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Norte Dame put it this way,

“Oil is a uniquely important commodity in global affairs.  It’s an input to everything in our modern way of life. It is very important at protecting our prosperity. And at a certain level, oil is essential for high-quality military power”

Eugene Gholz

How did it get this way?  When did the United States start depending on oil and gas? Joe Hanson of PBS digital studios explained in an interview that our dependence on oil and gas dates back to the late 19th century. During this time, our primary source of fuel was wood. Wood was the best renewable resource at the time, though, it was understood that forests were exhaustible. 

For a while, American society considered whale blubber for energy as an alternative to destroying forests. Whale oil was a popular source of fuel. But this product was obviously an exhaustible resource as well. Moreover, it was less available and less renewable than wood. Of course, it was a factor in leading to this species of animals with some now on the endangered species list.

Then, they made a tragic mistake and focused on kerosene as a fuel source. Kerosene is a product that comes from oil. Wikipedia says the oil industry was already thriving in other countries by the early 19th century. Oil products seemed like a safe alternative to wood. Instead, they created a much worse problem. As Joe Hanson of PBS put it, 

“The history of America tends to be, solving one problem by introducing another”

Joe Hanson

What keeps us dependent on oil?

Traditionally, as a society becomes more advanced, they consume more energy. If this is true then you can consider American society one of the most advanced societies on the planet. Because, according to an article by, the US is the 2nd largest consumer of energy per person worldwide. 77.6% of this energy comes from fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. This is to say, the United State’s infrastructure rests firmly on oil.

Perhaps you don’t feel dependent on oil as an individual. Maybe you think you could easily live in a world without oil and gas. Remember, all plastic is made from petroleum. As an advanced society, we have come to depend on a lot of products made from oil. Take a look at this list of just a few oil-based household products.

  • Nylon Rope        
  • Electric Blankets
  • Tennis Rackets 
  • Candles
  • Trash Bags
  • Water Pipes      
  • Hand Lotion       
  • Roller Skates

Even the screen you are reading this article on is an oil-based product. These are all products we might live without, however, it would require quite a lifestyle transition. 

Convenience and entertainment are not the only elements of American lifestyles dependent on oil and gas. There is one other big word at play: PROFIT. Oil revenues for the United States are high. Based on an article by Time, the gas and oil industry generated nearly $181 Billion in revenue in 2018. That was in the United States alone.  This number is an increase since their low point recorded in 2016. Meaning, in an environment where the demand for climate awareness is rising, oil profits still rise. Similar to our infrastructure, the US economy also depends on oil and gas.

How realistic is it to think we will run out of oil?

How realistic is this fear that the world will suddenly run out of oil? An article by VOX says this fear is not only realistic, but it is also inevitable. The editor explains that it is unrealistic to behave as though there is an unlimited supply of oil in the ground. In 1909, the industry thought there the Earth contained only 30 years’ worth of oil. 30 years later, in 1939, the estimate for our oil supply was another 20 years. 20 years later, in the 1960s estimates became more generous. They figured oil would last another 50-years. 

Today, the oil and gas industry is better at finding oil than ever. They’ve developed new seismic searching techniques and even some space technology. BBC Earth Lab quotes oil giant BP’s claim that we have “proven resources” of oil to last another 50 years. In addition, their claim is also that there is enough natural gas for more than 50 years. Add to that the areas where the oil and gas industry has not begun to drill. Oil giants believe there is more oil out there. 

But the increased proficiency at finding oil only heightens the predictions that one day we will tap out. This is because of one simple fact: The better we are at finding oil, the closer we will come to the day when it’s all gone. Also, the more certain we will be that it’s all gone when that day finally comes. Therefore, as long as we depend on oil and gas, the concern is not really “if” we run out of oil and gas. More appropriately, the concern is “when”.

What happens when we run out of oil?

So, what will happen when there is no more oil and gas? The US will experience a catastrophe, one that we are working hard to avoid. First, the demand to end our addiction to oil and gas will no longer be necessary. With an exhausted supply, we will go “cold turkey” whether we like it or not. Next, there will no longer be any opposition to alternative fuel sources. Alternative fuel sources will be the only fuel sources. Initially, the price of gas will skyrocket to hundreds of dollars per gallon. Then, gas will no longer be available at all.  Billions of cars suddenly transformed into mementos of a time gone past.

The infrastructure of the United States will change. For one, the agricultural industry will have to make a massive shift. Without trucks for large transport, farmers will have to sell their products locally. This will apply to other industries as well. Manufacturers will produce and sell all products locally. And foreign competition will not exist in any industry. Consequently, the US agricultural industry will make a massive comeback. Meanwhile, without gas, the transportation industry will plummet.

But, if you think oil giants like Shell and BP will collapse, think again. These billion-dollar corporations are already diversified in all types of energy production. Oil giants will shift their focus once the last barrel of oil is extracted from the ground. They will suddenly support renewable energy, as that will be their only revenue stream. I say, why wait? Let’s shift our dependence on oil and gas and focus on renewable energy now!

Are renewable energy sources the answer?

Scientists have known for over 100 years that relying on oil and gas is an unsustainable energy model. Big oil companies take millions upon millions of barrels of oil out of the ground. They can not, however, put any oil back into the ground for future generations to utilize. Additionally, the oil will not renew itself for, perhaps millions of years. Therefore, oil is a nonrenewable resource by definition. Eventually, we will run out. Are renewable energy sources the answer to our oil and gas addiction? In one word, “Yes”!

Renewable energy sources must meet two requirements to qualify:

  1. Must naturally replenish themselves.
  2. Must never run out.

The most popular and well-known source of renewable energy is the sun. Solar power was first harnessed in 1954 by a US team of scientists working at Bell Labs. They built the first solar panel which generated enough energy to power common electrical equipment. Panels capture rays of sunlight and convert them into energy. Energy from the sun is a prime example of a renewable source. In theory, sunlight is endless and needs no replenishment. Most importantly, the process of capturing solar power produces no air pollution directly.

Another prime example of a renewable energy source is wind. Wind farming has been around since the middle of the 19th century. In 1890, turbines converted wind into electricity to power homes and businesses. This inexhaustible resource also helped farmers pump water for irrigation. Most agriculture farms today use a single turbine to supplement their energy costs.

Overall, renewable energy sources cost less to build and maintain. And they will not run out. Moreover, clean energy sources do not directly produce greenhouse gas emissions. Clean energy will decrease pollution. Honestly, there is no real need to keep depending on oil and gas.

Will the US keep depending on oil?

Early American society turned to oil because it was the most viable option of their day. They wanted a clean, renewable energy source that was more environmentally friendly than whale blubber. Oil seemed to fit the bill. The next generations discovered that burning fossil fuel is terrible for the environment. So now, will we keep depending on Oil and Gas? Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum made an interesting statement during his interview with Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post. They were discussing the United States energy policy.  Odum said,

“The US has a national policy and a mindset that says we’re going to use ‘x’ amount of oil and gas over the next couple of decades no matter what we do or what we decide… so let’s produce that at home rather than somewhere else”

Marvin Odum, President of Shell Oil Company

In my opinion, the president of Shell has made a common error in his thinking. He assumes that the US has no choice other than to continue depending on oil. It sounds like a safe assumption, as 50% of the energy used in the US comes from oil. While renewable sources generate only 2.l%. I think the assumption is in error. Also, I think if we continue to make this error, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In actuality, our future relationship with oil depends on three things:

  • Technology: Can we find ways to produce more energy from our clean sources?
  • New discoveries: Is there a new source of clean energy out there?
  • Public outcry: Is the general public willing to fight for change?

Only time and circumstances can dictate what the future holds for the United States.

How can I help the US end its dependence on oil?

The US transitioned from wood to coal. Then from coal to oil.  It’s time for another transition. The US is very dependent on oil today even though it is expensive to search for as well as hard to find. Plus, when burned, it is damaging to the environment. CNBC International confirms that the US spends $81 Billion dollars per year protecting oil supplies globally. That’s much higher than the amount of money researching renewable energy sources. If the US continues to put its dollars into oil, it will remain the dominant energy source. This begs the question, is the US government serious about transitioning from fossil fuel to clean energy… or not? 

Thankfully, the 21st century is seeing real progress in renewable energy sources. The transition from oil to clean energy must happen. It took generations for the US to transition from wood to oil as our primary source of energy. It’s going to take at least that long if not longer to shift from oil to renewable energy. We must embrace different power sources and switch to sustainable energy now. Or, we will have to make that painful transition after BP and Shell make that inevitable announcement, “It’s All Gone!”

You can help the US conquer its addiction to oil and gas by demanding that your tax dollars go towards renewable energy exploration. We need a larger investment into clean energy research. Once clean energy becomes more profitable, large corporations will become more innovative. I believe the discovery of a new clean energy source is right around the corner. The United States would not have become the superpower it is today without oil. Be that as it may, it’s time to move on. Renewable energy is the best viable source of energy for the future.

Top 5 oil consuming countries

Here is a list of the top 5 oil-consuming countries. These figures are based on the World Oil & Gas Review published by in 2019. One thing to note is the large disparity between these 5 countries and the rest of the world’s oil usage. Together, these 5 countries make up almost 40% of the world’s oil consumption.

Another interesting fact is that Saudi Arabia is the second-largest oil-producing country in the world. Ironically, they are not one of the top 5 oil-consuming countries. According to an article by NS Energy, Saudi Arabia produces nearly 12 million barrels of oil per day. But they consume less than 3.5 barrels of oil per day. At the same time, the United States is the largest oil-producing country on the globe. We pump 17 million barrels of oil out of the ground per day.  Tragically, we use over 20 Million Barrels per day.  This explains why we import so much oil into the United States from Canada, Mexico, and from countries overseas.

List of the Top 5 Oil Consuming Countries

United States: 20.8 Million Barrels Per day

China: 13 Million Barrels Per day

India: 4.8 Million Barrels Per day

Japan: 3.8 Million Barrels Per day

Russia: 3.5 Million Barrels Per day

The rest of the world: 50 Million Barrels Per day



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