Dienstag, 26. Mai 2009

US Oil Consumption

According to the FT, experts expect Obama's policies to have a major impact on mid-term US oil consumption. Apparently, Obama wants to reduce US oil demand by "the combined consumption of France and Canada" (note: those two countries have a combined population equal to 30 % of the US!). According to some analysts, the change will be so big that "the US is expected to become a net exporter of petrol by 2023".

Yeah, right: The US currently produces 50 % of the oil it consumes, and domestic production is falling. So oil consumption would have to drop by more than half until 2023 for the US to become self-sufficient. Ain't gonna happen. (Unless of course prices rise dramatically enough to force people to consume much less.)

As of 2007, the US consumed roughly twice as much oil per capita as Western Europe. So obviously there is scope for a significant reduction. However, the way US society is organized, Americans will continue to use their cars much more than Europeans do. So all that can be hoped for in the mid-term is a switch to more fuel-efficient cars. Factor in demographics (population grows at nearly 1 % p.a.), and the fact that US oil consumption has already dropped 10 % from Q1 2007 to Q1 2009, and the conclusion is: Reducing absolute oil consumption much further will prove quite a challenge once the current crisis is over and the economy starts growing again.

(To be fair, I suppose the FT's "net exporter of petrol" claim was referring to refinery capacity, i.e. the US would still import oil, but would become a net exporter of petrol. Not that this has any relevance whatsoever.)

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