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Throughout the 20th century the world relied on fossil fuels to meet most of its energy needs. Over the last century, resources such as oil, gas and coal were relatively abundant and inexpensive. And all of these fossil fuels benefit from an energy infrastructure – refineries, pipelines, tank farms, electricity plants – developed over decades to make use of them.
But times – and economies – are changing. The United States (U.S.) has become increasingly reliant on foreign imports to meet its petroleum needs. In 2009, 51% of U.S. oil consumption came from foreign sources, primarily Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Mexico, according to the Energy Information Service. “A little less than half of U.S. oil consumption currently comes from domestic production, now at more than five million barrels a day. Oil production in the United States is largely concentrated in Texas, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and North Dakota. Offshore production from the Gulf of Mexico represents 30 percent of all U.S. crude production and more than 90 percent of all U.S. offshore production” (Johnson, 2011).
In April 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig forced the administration to reconsider plans to open up new areas to oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia, in Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident, which killed eleven oil workers, sunk the rig, and led to a five-month effort to secure the well, has had significant economic and environmental effects on the region. “It also opened up a host of issues as lawmakers, the industry, and environmental advocates grapple with finding the right balance between regulatory oversight and incentives for new energy exploration” (Johnson, 2011).
Diversifying our energy portfolio
Burning fossil fuels can have an environmental impact. Unregulated “greenhouse gas” emissions is a growing environmental concern. “Congress is debating plans that would limit such emissions, especially of carbon dioxide....
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