New Energy Bill: Reducing Our Dependence on Foreign Oil
Rising oil prices are having an adverse impact on the U.S. economy. We need a responsible energy plan.
Growing transportation requirements combined with declining domestic oil production have led to burgeoning oil imports. Rising oil prices are having an adverse
impact on the U.S. economy as evident from recent economic data and stock market performance. We need a responsible energy plan which will balance our transportation
requirements with the necessity to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Rising Oil Prices
Oil prices have been on a roll this year. As of August 10, crude oil prices have climbed over 45% since the start of 2004. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate recently
recorded its all time high of $45.04 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. And this has happened despite the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increasing
its oil output.
Earlier in the year, the run up in oil prices was attributed to surging demand for petroleum products due to a strong global economy. Then it was the unrest in
Venezuela and Nigeria.
Concerns on security of oil supplies have heightened more recently. Added to the pipeline disruptions in Iraq are kidnappings of foreign workers in the Middle East.
Yukos, the Russian oil company’s tax evasion dispute has taken center stage currently. With a production rate of 1.7 million barrels a day (mmbd), Yukos is Russia’s
largest oil producer.
While the underlying factors behind the dramatic increase in the price of oil this year are a combination of all the above, the impact is hardly comforting.
Higher oil prices that work like an added tax have the effect of holding down hiring, consumer spending, and corporate profits.
The July jobs report that was released by the Labor Department on August 6 was a disappointment. The U.S. economy added a mere 32,000 to the non-farm payrolls,
the lowest monthly addition this year. The rate of employment growth is slowing as business confidence appears to be undermined by rising oil prices. High oil prices
are also taking the bite out of consumer spending.
By some economists’ estimates, every $10 rise in the price of oil knocks 0.5% off of GDP growth and adds about the same amount to inflation. The equity markets have
been fixated with the trend in oil prices and have relentlessly spiraled lower since late June. On August 6, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,815.33,
its lowest level since Nov. 28 after losing more than 300 points over the last two sessions. The technology heavy Nasdaq Composite Index is down over 11% since
the start of the year.
The Root Cause: Transportation Relies on Foreign Oil
A combination of declining domestic oil production and increasing oil consumption has left the U.S. increasingly dependent on foreign oil.
The U. S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration states that domestic oil production in 2002 was 5.8 mmbd, about 36% lower than the 9.0 mmbd
produced in 1985. The total use of petroleum products on the other hand has grown from 15.2 mmbd in 1985 to 19.3 mmbd in 2002.
The lion’s share of oil consumption stems from transportation needs. In 2002, the transportation sector accounted for about 68% of total petroleum use with
gasoline accounting for two-thirds of the petroleum consumed in the transportation sector.
U.S. net oil imports have grown from 4.3 mmbd in 1985 to 10.4 mmbd in 2002. Net oil imports as a percent of U. S. petroleum product use has risen from 28% in 1985
to 54% in 2002.
Based on Sandia National Laboratories and U. S. DOE/EIA forecast, an additional 7.5 mmbd of oil and petroleum products will have to be imported by 2020 to bridge
the gap between growing consumption and falling domestic oil production. In 2020, U.S. oil production will supply less than 30% of U.S. oil needs.
The Energy Bill: Long-Term Plan for Energy Security
The picture the current events paint as a preview of the future is cause for concern.
On August 6, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry outlined a $30-billion, 10-year plan to veer the U. S. towards energy independence. The plan includes tax
breaks and incentives for carmakers and buyers, coal producers and alternative fuels research. President Bush responded saying Kerry's proposals mimic much of what
Bush had already proposed but is stalled in Congress.
It will not be adequate if President Bush and Senator Kerry just reignite the energy debate. To bring clarity to energy security, we need a comprehensive
long-term national energy plan that will reduce our reliance on foreign oil while meeting the nation’s growing transportation needs.
Both supply and demand sides of the transportation issue will have to be addressed to make a meaningful impact in reducing the dependence on foreign oil.
Steps to increase the supply of domestic transportation fuels including alternatives to oil will likely be required. So too will efforts to reduce per capita
transportation fuel consumption.
Based on what has been outlined to date, neither the Bush proposal nor the Kerry plan appears to fully address the critical transportation issue. The House-Senate
conferees have an opportunity to deliver a responsible energy bill to the President's desk for his signature. If the dependence on foreign oil is not reduced, the
course of the U. S. economy and the stock market may well be shaped more by decisions made in Moscow, Riyadh, and Vienna rather than being determined by the
decisions made at home.
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