A Strong Case for the Anthropocene: no other species has ever consumed so much of earth’s resources so quickly

Williams, M., et al. March 14, 2016. The Anthropocene: a conspicuous stratigraphical signal of anthropogenic changes in production and consumption across the biosphere. Earth’s Future.

Humans are producing and consuming resources at a geologically unprecedented rate – a rate that needs to be maintained to continue the high level and complexity of the current [fossil-fuel based] civilization.  This high consumption has formed a ‘striking new pattern’ in the planet’s global energy flow.

Humans now consume between 25 and 38% of net primary production of the planet. Human modification and appropriation of NPP, and the production of energy over and above NPP, has been developing over thousands of years, but accelerated markedly from the mid-20th century onward (Figure 1).

Produced energy and the pattern of human population growth from 1750. Utilization of these energy sources, together with the energy used by humans from net primary production, is now approaching the entire energy available to the global ecosystem before human intervention [Barnosky, [1]]. Key to colours: dark blue = coal; dark brown = oil; green = natural gas; purple = nuclear; light blue = hydro; orange brown = biomass (e.g. plants, trees). Data source from http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8936

Produced energy and the pattern of human population growth from 1750. Utilization of these energy sources, together with the energy used by humans from net primary production, is now approaching the entire energy available to the global ecosystem before human intervention [Barnosky, [1]]. Key to colours: dark blue = coal; dark brown = oil; green = natural gas; purple = nuclear; light blue = hydro; orange brown = biomass (e.g. plants, trees). Data source from http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8936

Figure 1. Produced energy and the pattern of human population growth from 1750.

Professor Zalasiewicz at the University of Lecister said the last times such huge effects were seen happened 2.5 billion years ago when photosynthesis appeared, and again half a billion years ago when the food web grew more complex.  Although the 5 major extinction events were also huge, “ even measured against these events, human-driven changes to production and consumption are distinctly new.”

Co-author Dr Carys Bennett added: “It is without precedent to have a single species appropriating something like one quarter of the net primary biological production of the planet and to become effectively the top predator both on land and at sea.”

Some of the massive effects humans are having on the planet include mining phosphorus and fixing nitrogen to make fertilizer, burning hundreds of millions of years of fossil fuels, and directing this increased productivity that is well beyond natural levels towards animals re-engineered for our consumption.

According to Professor Zalasiewicz: “This refashioning of the relationship between Earth’s production and consumption is leaving signals in strata now forming, and this helps characterize the Anthropocene as a geological time unit.  It also has wider and more fundamental importance in signaling a new biological stage in this planet’s evolution.”

Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey said: “Modern human society is structured around economic production and consumption and our recent perturbation of the balance between the two, notably since the mid-20th century, will leave a signal that will provide a lasting legacy of our existence on this planet.”

Also see ScienceDaily.com’s March 23, 2016 Human impact forms ‘striking new pattern’ in Earth’s global energy flow.

Some excerpts from the paper

The human impact on production and consumption in the biosphere is recognizably different from all previous patterns. Humans appropriate a major component of NPP that is augmented by their use of fossil fuels: the combined energy use now approaches that available to the entire terrestrial biosphere prior to human intervention. In addition, humans are poor at recycling compared to the unmodified biosphere, a clear example being the geologically unprecedented rapid increase of carbon in the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels, and concomitant accumulations of plastics—made from hydrocarbons—at the surface.

The influence of humans on mammal populations during the late Pleistocene represents a global, though diachronous, signal of growing human impact. This potentially had an ecosystem engineering effect, as the climax forests of several areas throughout North America may be the result of the removal of megafauna (mammoths and mastodons) in the late Pleistocene, animals that were effective in forest clearance.

However, a key transition in the human remodeling of production and consumption was the origin of farming, moving primary productivity to annual crop plants and shifting primary consumption to domesticated animals. These innovations, which mark the end of the Epi-Paleolithic and the beginning of the Neolithic culture, include the domestication of cattle (pigs, cows, goats, sheep etc.) and development of agriculture from about 10,000 years ago. Once adopted, agriculture sustained a greater population (and standing biomass) of people, and provided the environment in which human specialist activities unrelated to food production could evolve.


The eventual transfer of labor from agriculture to non-agricultural activities is the central component of industrialization, and has led to even greater appropriation of primary production by humans, and to the use of fossil fuels to augment energy supplies to the global ecosystem, with the concomitant rise of humans and their domesticated animals as the principal component of standing terrestrial large-animal biomass. From the 17th- to mid-20th century technological advances in farming, in their initial stages focused on England, the Low Countries and northern Italy, and then spreading globally, helped facilitate increasing appropriation of primary production. These included: improvements in drainage and restoration systems; the development of the Dutch plough in the early 17th century; the mechanization of farming in the early 18th century; developments in breeding and genetic manipulation, scientifically explained by Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century; and the use of fertilizers, with the discovery that ammonia could be synthesized by a chemical reaction from nitrogen, first demonstrated by Fritz Haber in 1909, representing perhaps the most significant step. This paved the way for overcoming a major natural limiting force on agricultural production—the rate at which plants fix atmospheric nitrogen into soils—in the early 20th century by the German scientists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, who used Haber’s earlier discovery to develop the Haber-Bosch process. Their process took atmospheric nitrogen to make nitrogen fertilizers [some 90 million tons of nitrogen-based fertilizer now being produced each year. Through enhancing food production, this single innovation is estimated to sustain some 40% of global human population today. The process is energy-intensive, and is directly supported by the consumption of fossil fuels (fossil NPP). The widespread use of fossil energy to make processing of land (e.g., ploughing) quicker and more efficient, to support a greater number of humans and their domesticated animals, to enable rapid national/international transfer of produce, and to enable more efficient harvesting of the sea and sea floor has further amplified the impact of humans on both production and consumption in the biosphere.

During the 20th century (between 1910 and 2005) the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity doubled from 13 to 25% of the NPP of potential vegetation. These changes involved a doubling of reactive nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment, and the use of vast amounts of fossil energy focused on agricultural production. In 2014 humans extracted 225 million tons of fossil phosphates, and this is projected to rise to 258 million tons by 2018. Phosphates are a limited resource, but nevertheless annual human addition to the phosphorus cycle exceeds the amount of available phosphorus from natural recycling. Future projections, dependent on land-use, suggest between 27 and 44% of NPP might be appropriated by humans by 2050. While it is likely a geologically unique situation for a single species to co-opt or consume such a large percentage of NPP, perhaps more significant from a biosphere perspective is the technology and landscape modification that humans have used to achieve this. This leads to a complex relationship whereby the ultimate biophysical limit to the amount of NPP that humans might appropriate is dependent on the interplay of many parameters in the landscape, a relationship that needs to evolve rapidly to provide stability between production and consumption in the Anthropocene biosphere.

Viewed from another perspective, the large-scale integration of humans and technology has led to a new terrestrial “sphere,” the technosphere, a novel Earth system of global extent, which is characterized by a total mass approaching that of the biosphere, significant rate of energy dissipation (17 TW), and high average density of infrastructure links such as roads [circa 0.4 km of roadway per km2 of land area, CIA, 2015] and of links between mobile communication devices [circa 50 such devices per km2 of land area, PR Newswire, 2014] that help connect together most humans and most in-use technological artifacts. An emergent system, the technosphere comprises the world’s humans, cultures, and technological components and systems, and maintains itself quasi-autonomously via feedback loops that deliver goods and services desired by humans (e.g., entertainment), or essential for their survival (e.g., food and water), in return for human participation in its continued function. There are no analogs for the technosphere in the geological history of life on Earth. Therefore, its myriad ramifications are truly unprecedented.


Human Impact Measured Against Geological Events

Throughout geological history the coupling between the production of biomass and the consumption of that biomass in the biosphere has typically maintained stability, with periods such as the Ordovician and Cretaceous showing patterns of fauna and flora that indicate persistent stable ecosystems over long time frames. Intervals where this stability may have been temporarily disrupted include the mass extinction events of the Neoproterozoic Era and Phanerozoic Eon [there being six of these following the definition of Benton, 2012, of which five were within the Phanerozoic Eon], with many small-scale extinctions operating at intervals of perhaps hundreds of thousands of year timescales or less. More fundamental changes to the functioning of the biosphere are associated with: its expansion to cover much of the globe (with increasing primary production) during the evolution of photosynthesis at circa 2.7 billion years ago [Nisbet and Fowler, 2014; see Figure 2] linked to the development of an oxygenated atmosphere during the Great Oxygenation Event beginning circa 2.5 billion years ago [Pufahl and Hiatt, 2012]; the construction of complex trophic structures between primary producers (e.g., marine phytoplankton), primary consumers (e.g., herbivorous zooplankton), and secondary consumers (e.g., tertiary and apex arthropod predators) during the Cambrian Period [Butterfield, 2011; Perrier et al., 2015], which led to animals typically forming the largest standing biomass in marine ecosystems; and the construction of complex terrestrial ecosystems with plants forming the largest standing biomass, with an increasing impact on the carbon-cycle and climate during the mid-Paleozoic [Kansou et al., 2013] and later. Measured against these changing geological-scale patterns, is the human impact on the biosphere significant?

Certain characteristics of current production and consumption in the biosphere appear entirely unique from a geological perspective, not least in being driven by a single species (Homo sapiens) within a time frame that is dramatically accelerated (decades versus millions of years) relative to past events. These changes have been characterized as defining a new biosphere state [Behrensmeyer et al., 1992; Williams et al., 2015]. They include the widespread transportation of animals and plants around the planet (the “neobiota”), the human-directed evolution of biology and ecosystems, the extraction of energy and material resources from deep in the Earth’s crust, and the huge appropriation of production by humans, which will leave a fossil record in, for example, both the physical and chemical signatures of biomineralized materials [bones, shells, reefs, etc., see Kidwell, 2015].

A profound example of these changing patterns is the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century. This translation of technologies that originated from technological breakthroughs in developed countries, which were transported and adapted to the developing world, included the transfer of technology for fertilizers (principally nitrogen-, phosphate- and potassium-based), new crop varieties, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and irrigation. The Green Revolution spread across the world from the 1950s onward, dovetailing with the Great Economic Acceleration in industrialized nations [Steffen et al., 2007, 2015]. It led to the doubling of appropriation of NPP by humans through the 20th century [Krausmann et al., 2013] and a concomitant rise in the consumption of fossil NPP to support that. This redirection of resources along different biological paths has led to humans and their domesticated animals comprising 175 million tons of carbon (estimates based on dry mass of 45% carbon) at the end of the 20th century, whilst wild terrestrial mammals represent just 5 million tons of carbon [Smil, 2011]; the total standing biomass of large terrestrial vertebrates in itself has been increased by about an order of magnitude over a “natural” baseline level by the tightly controlled and directed hyper-fertilization of terrestrial primary production [Barnosky, 2008].

Analyses suggest that human influence on the Earth’s biota is promulgating a contemporary mass extinction event [Barnosky et al., 2011, 2012, 2014; Kolbert, 2014; Pimm et al., 2014; Ceballos et al., 2015] comparable to the five most significant events of the Phanerozoic Eon. This potential Anthropocene mass extinction event, if it continues to unfold, would thus immediately succeed (stratigraphically) a major perturbation of the nitrogen cycle (from the Haber-Bosch process) that is leaving a geochemical signal in sedimentary deposits worldwide, and it would also be associated with changes in carbon isotope ratios in marine carbonates as a result of the anthropogenic CO2 emitted from the burning of hydrocarbons (a characteristically depleted 13C signature). These signatures would resemble in magnitude, though not in environmental forcing, patterns of chemical change in the physico-chemical stratigraphic record, in part suggesting changes in the make-up of primary producer versus consumer organisms, and which are features of earlier extinction events such as in the latest Proterozoic [reduced acritarch phytoplankton diversity as a result of surface ocean eutrophication, Nagy et al., 2009], or at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary [perhaps reflecting changes to surface-ocean primary production as a result of acritarch extinction, see Zhu et al., 2006 for a summary].

The human impact is not restricted to the land. The scale of appropriation of marine biological production by a single species (Homo sapiens) is almost certainly unique in Earth history, far exceeding the grazing of mainly coastal waters by, for example, seabirds (and, before them, flying reptiles), or pinnipeds. The rates of domestication of marine plants and animals are rising rapidly [Duarte et al., 2007]. Although fish farming dates back over 2000 years [e.g., McCann, 1979], with early examples in Australia, East Asia and Europe, it was quantitatively trivial, except locally, until 1970. Since that time aquaculture has become a significant component of fish consumption [Naylor et al., 2002], and this is sometimes referred to as the “blue revolution”: in 2012 total world fisheries amounted to 158 million tons, of which 42% was aquaculture [FAO, 2014]. Having removed most top predators from the oceans, including by some estimates 90% of the largest predatory fish stocks [Jackson, 2008], humans are steadily fishing down the food chain [Pauly et al., 1998; WBGU, 2013]—in aggregate, 38% of marine fish have been lost, and the decline in certain baleen whales is up to 90% [McCauley et al., 2015]. At the same time, humans are continually harvesting, via a massive extension of bottom trawling powered by fossil fuels, the majority of the continental shelf, ranging now down onto parts of the continental slope [Puig et al., 2012]. Regions of the ocean undergoing fishery collapses are incapable of providing a full complement of ecosystem services, including those necessary to sustaining ever-growing human coastal populations [Worm et al., 2006].

Thus, it can be argued that the scale of human change to the biosphere with its transformation of terrestrial and marine ecologies, its use of fossil fuels to elevate the energy available to the global ecosystem, its impact on the standing biomass of terrestrial vertebrates, and its displacement of apex predators in both terrestrial and marine foodwebs, is of the magnitude of past major changes in the biosphere as shown in Figure 2.


Original paper:  Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Matt Edgeworth, Carys Bennett, Anthony D. Barnosky, Erle C. Ellis, Michael A. Ellis, Alejandro Cearreta, Peter K. Haff, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Reinhold Leinfelder, John R. McNeill, Eric Odada, Naomi Oreskes, Andrew Revkin, Daniel deB Richter, Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, James P. Syvitski, Davor Vidas, Michael Wagreich, Scott L. Wing, Alexander P. Wolfe, An Zhisheng. The Anthropocene: a conspicuous stratigraphical signal of anthropogenic changes in production and consumption across the biosphere. Earth’s Future, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/2015EF000339


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What is most energy efficient mass transit mode: bus, rail, or auto?

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer

What follows is based on the following document: NRC. 2015. Comparison of Passenger Rail Energy Consumption with competing modes. National Research Council, National cooperative rail research program, National Academies Press.

This is an important publication because there are very few papers on making passenger rail (or vehicles in general) more efficient.   Planning documents usually focus on lowering greenhouse gas emissions and how to widen freeways to accommodate endless growth.

As the authors note in this paper “to date, decisions about train types and operating patterns in the passenger rail industry have not been strongly influenced by energy use and efficiency concerns”.

Since the 1970s, studies have always shown buses are more energy efficient than rail (and cars and airplanes).

After the 1973 and 1979 energy crises hundreds of energy efficiency studies were done but they don’t come up in internet searches since they are images (see May 1976 Bibliography for Transportation energy conservation, Transportation Center Library, Northwestern University, Evanston, Il  at  http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc282648/m1/1/  )

One of these early studies by Mittal (1977) found if every seat had a passenger, a bus was by far the most energy efficient transportation mode (energy intensity BTU seat/mile):

Bus 500         Rail 1000         Compact car 1100         Average car 1600        Airplane  3600

A compact car comes close to being nearly as good as rail if all 4 seats are taken. When Mittal did this study, the average compact car had an average of 20 mpg.  But the best subcompact cars would have beaten rail – the combined 1977 city/highway miles per gallon were quite high: Honda Civic 44 (in 2016 at best 35), Honda Accord 42 (in 2016 at best 31), Toyota Corolla 41 (in 2016 ab best 32), and so on (USDOE/AFDC 1977).  Other cars that got good mileage in 1977 include the Datsun B-210 42, Mazda GLC 38, and Volkswagen rabbit diesel 44.

Based on actual ridership, rather than an ideal of every seat filled, buses were still the most energy efficient, and compact autos (2.4 passengers) were more energy efficient than trains:

Bus 1100,  Compact auto 1900,Rail (Metroliner) 2000, Average Auto 2650, Rail intercity 3500, Airplane 6500

The Mittal study found that autos are most efficient from 50 to 60 mph.  But passenger trains reach peak energy efficiency at cruising speeds in the range of 20 to 30 mph, so to increase ridership and get people out of their cars, trains operate at faster at energy-inefficient speeds.

In 2016, buses are still more energy efficient than rail

Another reason rail tends to be less efficient than buses, or even autos, is that people usually need to drive to a train station, which adds to overall oil consumption.

This paper looked at other studies which I’ve summarized in Table 1. As you can see, buses perform on average 118% better than rail (from 24 to 218%).   The numbers represent energy intensity in BTUs, so the lower the number the better.

The best high-mileage cars would often beat rail as well, but the mpg of average cars was used in all the studies, so I didn’t include autos, or airplanes, which are the worst wasters of oil by far.

Seat-miles per gallon (SM): highest possible result: all seats are occupied.

Passenger –mile per gallon (PM): actual energy efficiency given ridership, also called the load factor, which is the average percentage of seats occupied by passengers.

Table 1. Energy intensity of bus versus rail

 NRC TABLE % Bus > Rail SM Bus


Rail BTUs/


% Bus >Rail PM Bus BTUs/


Rail BTUs/ PM
Table 2-4 100 500 1000  
Table 2-4   82 1100 2000
Table 2-4   218 1100 3500
Table 2-6 90 551 1046  
Table 2-6 180 551 1542  
Table 2-6   83 1156 2114
Table 2-9   24 1290 1596
Table 2-9   193 860 2518
Table 2-9   93 880 1699
Table 2-9   122 921 2047
Table 2-10   117 659 1427


  • Table 2-4. Energy intensity of intercity passenger transportation modes (Mittal 1977)
  • Table 2-6. Energy intensity of Canadian passenger travel modes in 1996 (Lake et al. 1999)
  • Table 2-9. Energy intensity of passenger modes—selected Canadian routes (English et al. 2007)
  • Table 2-10. Emissions and energy intensity of passenger modes— selected routes in Spain (Alvarez 2010)

Passenger trains that aren’t full waste a lot of energy. Train-miles per gallon measures the overall energy efficiency of the entire train. With passenger trains, the heaver the train, the less energy efficient it will be.  The weight of passengers, even if the train is full, is usually not enough to make a difference.

Since locomotives and rail cars last 40 years, many mass transit systems are using heavy equipment that wastes fuel whether the train is full or empty.

When mass transit agencies are finally able to buy new equipment, the new locomotives and train cares are still heavy due to needing to comply with out-of-date rules on crash safety.  This prevents agencies from buying cheaper, lighter, safer, and far more energy-efficient European, Australian, or Asian equipment.

Buses have a hard time competing with rail when energy efficiency isn’t a priority

People find trains more pleasant, they often come with dome cars, bars, more comfortable seating, go faster, and have a smoother ride.  Who doesn’t love trains?  The middle class sees buses as lower-class and would prefer to ride trains – especially high-speed rail which would also get them to their destination faster.

Why electric train data was not included

As the authors note several times in this document:

“A tank or “meter-to-wheels” comparison [of electric to diesel-electric locomotives] ignores potentially significant losses associated with the generation and transmission of electricity from a remote generating site to the electric locomotive. The conversion of diesel fuel to energy for traction takes place on board the diesel-electric locomotive, so any losses that occur in conjunction with the conversion are incorporated into efficiency measurements. By contrast, losses associated with the generation and transmission of purchased electricity from a remote station to an electric locomotive occur before the electricity arrives at the train, so they generally are not reflected in measures of efficiency for the train. Measures of efficiency that are based on comparisons of the energy content of the purchased fuel to purchased kWh of electricity are thus skewed in favor of the electric train.”

The authors point out that under actual operating conditions, rather than the idealized coasting data used to get high-speed rail funding, electric trains tend to consume more energy than the statistics show: “Electrification does not generally improve passenger rail energy efficiency when direct and upstream energy consumption is considered, unless the regional generation profile contains a substantial amount of renewable power generation. When combined with track upgrades, implementation of higher horsepower electric locomotives may facilitate more rapid acceleration and higher operating speeds that actually increase energy consumption.”

Mittal looked at all-electric and diesel-electric energy intensity (BTU per seat-mile) at a steady cruising rate of 65 mph, and what the actual energy intensity would be when actually operating.  He found that the energy intensity of diesel-electric in real conditions increased from 35 to 85%, and all-electric increased from 164 to 229%.  The real figures for the all-electric locomotive would actually be much higher, since the calculation does not include the energy consumed by the power plant and lost over the transmission wires to the pantograph.

Hopkins also found the diesel-electric to be more energy efficient than the all-electric (115-170 seat-miles-per-gallon versus 65-95).

I also explain why diesel-electric locomotives are more energy efficient than all-electric locomotives in my book “When trucks stop running: Energy and the future of transportation” in the “Why electrify” section of “Can freight trains be electrified?”.


Conserving energy is only a priority in a crisis.  Meanwhile everyone’s been attending the all you can consume oil keg binge party since Spindletop first blew its lid.  It is human nature to party until the hangover begins rather than care or worry about future generations.

Some day, when fossil fuels are scarce and rationed, especially oil, people will wonder why such waste was allowed to happen.  Why wasn’t efficient mass transit built, mainly buses, to discourage cars, which guzzle 63% of transportation oil in the U.S.?  Why were CAFE standards abandoned for 30 years?

I’ve found two congressional hearings that discuss this.  In of them, Carole Browner, former head of the EPA describes her experiences in a mock exercise of an oil crisis (called the Oil ShockWave) where she played the role of the Secretary of Energy.  “In this position I was supposed to suggest a series of short-term steps that could be taken by the American public to reduce oil use. [So] I said we could impose a 55-mile per hour speed limit, which would save 134,000 to 250,000 barrels of oil a day, year-round daylight savings time to save 3,000 barrels per day, and a Sunday driving ban to save 475,000 barrels of oil per day.  The other Cabinet members  rejected these ideas. They did not think they would be acceptable to the American people.”

Carter also explains how it was in the interest of both oil and car companies to keep vehicles inefficient (Senate 111-78):

“We have gone back to the gas guzzlers which I think has been one of the main reasons that Ford and Chrysler and General Motors are in so much trouble now. Instead of being constrained to make efficient automobiles, they made the ones upon which they made more profit. Of course, you have to remember, too, that the oil companies and the automobile companies have always been in partnership, because the oil companies want to sell as much oil as possible, even the imported oil-the profit goes to Chevron and others. I’m not knocking profit, but that’s a fact. And the automobile companies knew they made more profit on gas guzzlers. So, there was kind of a subterranean agreement there”.


House 110-19. November 7, 2007. Oil Shock: Potential for Crisis. U.S. House of Representatives.  52 pages.

Senate 111–78. May 12, 2009. Energy Security: Historical perspectives and Modern challenges. U.S. Senate committee on foreign

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Oil Dependence and what to do about it. Senate hearing 2007

[ In recent years there have been so many hearings proclaiming energy independence that I thought I should publish more sessions where Congress admits to a dependency on oil. The same old solutions and ideas appear: drill baby drill, ethanol, make cars more efficient, and a former Navy Admiral advises the Senate that oil wars are not a good way to reduce oil dependency.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

Senate 110-260. May 8, 2007.  Energy security and oil dependence–recommendations on policies and funding  to reduce U.S. Oil dependence.  U.S. Senate hearing.

Excerpts from this 50 page document follow.

Senator DORGAN. We’re here to take testimony and better understand the key steps and funding mechanisms that are necessary for reducing U.S. oil dependence and for future U.S. energy security. We’ll also discuss the results of an analysis conducted to assess the economic impact of implementing the recommendations to the Nation on reducing U.S. oil dependence, a report that has been put together by the Energy Security Leadership Council. That’s a group of distinguished business and military leaders who, like me, view U.S. oil dependence as detrimental to our long-term security interests as well as our economic health. I think it’s safe to say that the goal for all of us is to improve the national economic and energy security of the United States.

We are, this country, the top oil consumer in the world. Most of us know that we suck about 84 million barrels of oil a day out of this planet of ours. We stick little straws in the Earth and suck oil out, and we in the United States use fully one-fourth of it every single day. We are prodigious consumers of oil.

Much of our oil comes from where it is most vulnerable in the world. Some very vulnerable regions of the country have a substantial amount of the resources. We are about 60 plus percent dependent on foreign sources of oil. That clearly, it seems to me, is not in our best interest. About 70 percent—just shy of 70 percent of the oil that comes into this country is used for transportation. We are unbelievably dependent, and growing in that dependence, on oil that comes from very troubled parts of the world. A substantial part, of which, after we import it, is used for transportation. And so God forbid there should be some terrorist attack some day that would shut off the pipeline of oil coming into this country. We would not only see dramatic increases in the price of that which we could import, but we would also see substantial disruption and substantial problems, and I think our economy would suffer a very serious long-term problem.

Let me say that I also, coming from a State like North Dakota, have a pretty acute awareness of the energy issue, particularly with respect to oil. We drive exactly twice as much per person in North Dakota as New Yorkers do. It’s not unusual for somebody to jump in a pickup truck and drive 200 miles, one way, to get some parts for the combine and drive 200 miles back and then go to work after that.

It seems to me that there are no silver bullets to address these issues, but there are plenty of good ideas that we need to embrace. We need to find ways to conserve. We need to find ways to produce more, domestically. And we need to encourage, especially, our home grown biofuels industry in this economy. With input from the Energy Security Leadership Council, Senator Craig and I have introduced something called, the SAFE Energy Act of 2007 that has four cornerstone principles, to reduce oil dependency.

These include increasing auto efficiency, expanded production and the use of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and producing more of our own oil and gas resources by allowing access to domestic reserves, particularly in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

SENATOR PETE V. DOMENICI.  I am certain that there is no magic bullet or immediate panacea to remedy this global problem of supply and demand economics. But this much I know—in order to strengthen our energy and economic security we must do more to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That requires a common sense, balanced approach. It means that policies of drill-only or conserve-only are not enough. Instead, we must support policies that advance conservation and efficiency at home, additional domestic production in an environmentally sound manner, and diversification of the kind of fuels that power our lives.

When I was chairman of the Energy Committee in 2005, we passed the most wide-ranging comprehensive energy policy in decades. This bill includes long-term innovative policies on efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy, electricity. It also established the first-ever renewable fuel standard which brought renewable biofuels into our mix to displace foreign oil and created literally thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in a revitalized rural economy in America. Last year, we passed the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act which opens up the 181 Area and 181-South Area in the Gulf of Mexico. In total, these 8.3 million acres are estimated to contain 1.26 billion barrels of crude oil and 5.83 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough natural gas to heat and cool 6 million homes for about 15 years. This will provide much needed natural gas relief for our industrial and home consumers, and will bolster our energy security by increasing our domestic oil and gas production. Finally, this year, we have passed a biofuels and energy efficiency bill out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee

SENATOR LARRY CRAIG.  Americans are growing increasingly concerned that we are phenomenally dependent on unstable foreign sources of oil. In Nigeria today, three pipelines blew up. Six Chevron employees held hostage. It is a very unfriendly world out there. And that unfriendly world in the name of Petro-Nationalism has learned how to jerk the tail of the giant, us. And that’s a tragedy for us, potentially, if we don’t do something about it.   For this great Nation not to know what’s in the No Zone of the east coast, not to know what’s in the No Zone of the west coast, not to be optimizing that which is in the gulf, is a shame on us.


The Energy Security Leadership Council is a group of 20 business CEOs and retired military officers, who’ve been moved to action out of the conviction that oil dependence severely threatens the economic and national security of the United States. We would argue, in fact, that oil dependence is the most important security issue facing the Nation, with the possible exception of weapons of mass destruction.

In December the council unveiled a set of recommendations to the Nation on reducing U.S. oil dependence. The report outlines a comprehensive energy security strategy based on four measures: One, new strength in vehicle fuel efficiency standards; two, increased domestic oil production in conjunction with expanded environmental protections; three, greater availability of alternative fuels; and four, improved international arrangements to secure global oil supplies.

The recommendations replace the false hope of domestic energy independence with realistic policies for better managing the reality of global energy interdependence.  We believe the time has come for Americans to unite behind an aggressive campaign to reduce our dependence on oil and increase domestic and global energy security. The recommendations we’ve made are balanced policies. We consume now, more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, one-quarter of the world’s total. More than 60 percent of the oil we use is imported; 70 percent of that oil goes toward transportation, which relies on oil for 97 percent of delivered energy with almost no substitutes available. As the CEO of an organization of 280,000 people operating 677 aircrafts around the world and over 70,000 vehicles, I can assure you this issue commands our daily attention.

In the event of an oil crisis, transportation would break down and paralysis would spread into all economic sectors. A brief look at the history of Japan and Germany during World War II will illustrate the importance of energy vulnerability.

The American people must recognize that the 21st century global oil market is well removed from the free market ideal, as you mentioned. By some estimates, over 90 percent of all oil and gas reserves are now held by national oil companies that are partially or fully controlled by governments, many of whom do not have America’s best interest at heart.

The American people must be told the hard facts about energy security.

The time has come for Americans to unite behind an aggressive campaign to reduce our dependence on oil and increase domestic and global energy security. To succeed, we must move beyond the narrow interests, political polarization, and short-term thinking that have prevented meaningful national progress for the last 20 years.

Unless we tackle these hard choices, I have no doubt that oil dependence will result in major economic disaster for this country. Oil is the life-blood of our economy.

FedEx has grown because quick and efficient transportation creates value throughout the entire economy. In the event of an oil crisis, transportation would break down and paralysis would spread into all economic sectors.

Given these hard realities, we must accept that market forces alone will not solve our oil problems. Instead, government must step in to spur and, in some cases, require private-sector responses. This is not a decision I came to easily, and I am certainly not one to encourage regulation where other effective solutions are available. But the fact is the supply of oil—the most valuable commodity in the world—is determined by a group of men who gather together and collude in ways that would be considered illegal in the United States. To combat such anti-competitive practices, government intervention is not merely desirable—it is essential.

The Council’s approach tackles oil dependence through many policies, but none is more crucial than reformed and strengthened vehicle fuel-economy standards. Under the Council’s proposal, the fleet of new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States each year will have to get 4 percent more miles per gallon than the fleet of cars and light trucks sold the year before. The same improvement will be required for commercial trucks, which have never previously been subject to fuel- economy standards.

Four percent is not an arbitrarily chosen number. It reflects the historical annual gains that were achieved when the Nation last committed itself to fuel economy. It is also perfectly consistent with expert forecasts of potential future fuel economy improvements.

To improve energy security, America needs to get millions of fuel efficient cars on the road.

The fuel economy of medium and heavy trucks is well below what it could be. A 2002 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) found that currently available technologies could raise tractor-trailer mileage from 6 mpg to 10 mpg. A more recent analysis performed by DOE in 2005 suggests that an even higher level is feasible. Potential improvements for medium trucks run as high as 90 percent. And, perhaps most importantly, these gains are not projected to have any negative impact on performance.

So, you may be asking, why don’t we have these trucks? Don’t truck operators look to minimize costs by adopting cost-effective fuel-saving technologies? The answer, of course, is that some do and some don’t. As with purchasers of passenger cars, it is often difficult for truck buyers to correctly value the financial benefit of fuel-efficiency investments that require large up-front investments and produce savings over an extended time. Lack of information about available technologies and their fuel saving potential may also slow adoption of fuel-saving technologies, especially since fuel efficiency depends on a combination of elements (e.g., engine, chassis, aerodynamics) that are often marketed by separate manufacturers. But if you ask me, the key reason for lagging truck fuel economy is that manufacturers have not made such vehicles available. The market failures that have worked against passenger fuel economy are also evident in the truck sector. Indeed, since the manufacture of commercial vehicles is even more concentrated than is the case for passenger vehicles, the effects of the market failure may be even more pronounced in this sector.

To improve energy security, we must use oil more efficiently, but we must not stop there. Diversifying our transportation fuel supply should also be a key part of our national strategy to reduce oil dependence. Without an expanded supply of alternatives, conventional petroleum will continue to power nearly all of our motor transport. Such reliance on a single non-substitutable input creates profound economic dangers.

Biofuels are part of the solution, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that America can ‘‘grow’’ its way out of this problem. America’s fuel needs cannot be met with biofuels alone. Even Brazil, which has roughly the same land mass as the continental United States, but whose fuel requirements are only a small fraction of ours, still relies on oil for most of its transportation energy.


Oil dependence is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges facing our Nation.

Ever since launching his war against the United States, Osama bin Laden has threatened attacks on oil installations in the Arabian Gulf region. Just last year massive oil supply shock was only narrowly averted when the al-Qaeda attack on the Abqaiq facility was barely foiled. Sixty percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil goes through this facility. Two weeks ago the Saudi authorities again uncovered an al-Qaeda plot that threatened oil infrastructure targets.

Iraq is also the scene of persistent insurgent and terrorist attacks on pipelines and pumping stations especially in the north of Iraq and in the offshore loading platforms in the northern Arabian Gulf. These attacks have curtailed Iraqi oil exports and cost the Iraqi government billions of dollars in revenue at a time when American taxpayers are spending billions on reconstruction. The danger of attacks in shipping is also quite real. In October 2002, the French supertanker, Limburg, was rammed by a small boat packed with explosives off the coast of Yemen. Most of all shipments from the Persian Gulf have to pass through a handful of maritime chokepoints. Fully one-half, 40 million barrels a day of oil, transiting our world’s oceans go through restricted waterways: the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Mirlocca, the Strait of Babel Mandeb, the Turkish Straits, and the Suez Canal. All of our regional combatant commands handle all security tasks. For instance, the European command, where I commanded naval forces at the close of my career is involved in oil security tasks and missions from the Caspian Sea Transcaucasus region to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. And you just heard what happened there today in Nigeria.

The armed forces of the United States have been extraordinarily successful in fulfilling their energy security mission but this very success may have weakened the Nation’s strategic posture by allowing America’s political leaders and the American public to believe that energy security can be achieved by military means alone. We need to change that paradigm. The U.S. military is certainly not the only instrument, in many cases not the best instrument, for confronting the strategic dangers that emanate from oil dependence.

This is particularly true when oil is used as a political weapon and we certainly all remember the 1973 oil embargo and the consequences of that. And that—we all know that Russia is beginning to exercise its commodity muscle as evidenced by the stop of natural gas exports to Ukraine, which, in turn, withheld natural gas destined for western Europe.

Energy exporting governments don’t need to resort to full-fledged embargoes to hurt U.S. and other importers. They can manipulate prices through less drastic production—cuts and by foregoing improvements in their infrastructure. Witness what is happening in Venezuela. Currently an estimated 90 percent of global oil reserves are controlled by national oil companies, NOX, which are highly susceptible to being influenced by political objectives. European Union’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas continues to complicate U.S. foreign policy efforts, especially with regard to stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. China, of course, exercises its interest in Sudanese oil by stymieing diplomatic efforts in Darfur. The U.S. Government must make comprehensive energy security a top strategic priority.

Clearly, we face committed enemies with the intent and capability to cause major disruptions. Some of their attacks on the Saudi oil economy have already succeeded, for instance their attacks on expatriate residential compounds in Riyadh in 2002 and in al-Khobar in 2004.

Iraq is the scene of persistent insurgent and terrorist attacks on pipelines and pumping stations, especially in the North of the country. These attacks have curtailed Iraqi oil exports and cost the Iraqi government billions of dollars in revenue at a time when American taxpayers are spending billions on reconstruction. If violence continues, and especially if it spreads to the south, where most export facilities are located, then all of Iraq’s oil production could be at risk. The danger of attacks on shipping is also quite real. In October 2002, the French supertanker Limburg was rammed by a small boat packed with explosives off the coast of Yemen.

Nearly all of our U.S. military commands handle oil security tasks. Central Command guards access to oil supplies in the Middle East. Southern Command defends Columbia’s Cano Limon pipeline. Pacific Command patrols tanker routes in the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, and the Western Pacific. European Command, where I was in charge of all naval forces at the close of my career, is involved in oil security all the way from the Caspian Sea to West Africa. The armed forces of the United States

The 1973 Arab embargo is still the most famous example of the use of energy as a strategic political weapon. But in recent years, Russia has shown the most willingness to play this dangerous game, just as at the beginning of 2006 when it stopped natural gas exports to the Ukraine, which in turn withheld natural gas destined for Western Europe. The danger of conflict with a nuclear power like Russia should make it abundantly clear that there are limits on how we can use military power to guarantee energy flows.

In an oil-dependent world facing increasingly tight supplies, the growing power of the oil-exporting countries and the shifting strategic calculations of other importing countries have lessened U.S. diplomatic leverage. Iran, which exports to the U.S.’s European and Asian allies, has threatened to use the ‘‘oil weapon’’ to retaliate against efforts to constrain its nuclear program. Venezuala’s Hugo Chavez incessantly brandishes the threat to cut off oil to the U.S. And Russia’s growing self-assurance and assertiveness cannot be divorced from the leverage it enjoys because of its oil and gas resources. European Union reliance on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas continues to complicate U.S. foreign policy efforts, especially with regard to stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. China, with its rapidly growing dependence on foreign oil, also blocks U.S. diplomatic initiatives in order to strengthen its own ties with oil exporters. Chinese opposition has helped thwart U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran and prevented significant intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Mr. KARSNER.  The question focusing on E85 pumps and flex fuel vehicles is emblematic of the problem as a whole. The problem as a whole is that we have a sufficiently mature technology and availability of resources that can help us mitigate and hedge the security risk; but we haven’t devised sufficient policy with a scale and a rate that would be commensurate with the magnitude of the challenge. So, with regard to E85 and flex fuel, last year we had a banner year—450 new stations added—equaling a total national capacity of 1,200 stations. So, even with 60, 70 percent growth year on year, 750 had been the total we had ever put out of flex fuel pumps. Even if we maintained that rate of 450 per annum—that record rate—of new E85 pumps across the Nation, it would still take us up to 100 years to get to a scale that would matter, 50,000 pumps available for the country.

Mr. SMITH. We have about 77,000 trucks, a little more.

Senator DORGAN. And what prevents you—you’re a big purchaser of trucks, one of the Nation’s largest, I assume—from saying, ‘‘You know what? I want more efficient trucks and so I’m going to make an informed choice as a purchaser and buy only this kind of truck.’’

Mr. SMITH. We, along with Eaton Corporation and the Environmental Defense Fund, pioneered a new electric hybrid pick-up and delivery (PUD) vehicle. It produces about 50% greater fuel efficiency, about 90 percent greater emissions efficiency or emissions reduction over our traditional diesel powered PUD vehicles. Those vehicles are about 75% more expensive from a capital acquisition cost. So, obviously, being in a competitive business, we can’t buy one set of vehicles if there is no economic return.

Senator DORGAN. Have you had other business executives look at you cross eyed and say, ‘‘What on earth are you thinking going to Washington asking for more regulation?’’

Mr. SMITH. Well the short answer to that is, yes. As you may know, Senator, I’ve spent a lot of time up here over the last 30 years basically arguing against Government regulation. It took a considerable intellectual journey for me to come to the point of concluding that absent Government action, regulation, if you will, the problem can’t be solved.

Dr. WESCOTT.  If we think about an oil shock hitting the U.S. economy as in 1973–74, the early 1980s, and in 1991, economists think about channels of influence or lines of impact on the economy. The first one is on the pocketbook of the average household. And energy, historically, has been somewhere between 3 to 9% of the family budget. So, in the low oil price days of the early 1990s for example, when it was just 3% of the family budget, obviously that was a small piece of the budget. Now as we get up to 8 to 10% of the family budget it gets a more substantial piece. And if it doubles, then you’re basically constraining the purchases that people can make of other things.

Approximately one-half of all U.S. households are basically cash constrained, they don’t have surplus funds. They don’t have thousands of dollars in the bank. And so, right off the bat if you jump the price of oil and double it, as we did in this oil shock, you’re forcing about one-half of American households to almost immediately cut back on their movies that they go to and their purchases of other items. So, that’s one of the key channels of influence.

Another key channel of influence is through the financial markets. And especially if it’s caused by a terrorist attack or something a 9/11 or one of these sorts of events, it can have psychological effects. And so, we know that after 9/11, for example, the U.S. stock market fell by almost one-quarter. The Dow Jones average fell. So, that has wealth effects on people. People tend to consume about 3 to 4 percent of their wealth every year. And if suddenly their household wealth is sharply reduced because of a bad psychology or fear of terrorism or whatever that could also have a negative effect on the economy.

The third way that it can affect the economy is direct industry effects. There is going to be some industrial activities that are just plain shut down immediately if prices double.

Some chemical factories would shut down. They just couldn’t—they couldn’t physically run their business. They’re tied into contracts or whatever and they would get less for selling their goods then it would cost them to make it. These would be some of the very disruptive effects of an oil shock.

Senator DORGAN.  When we talk about CAFE standards and the greater efficiency of the system that powers our vehicles, I’m in support of that greater efficiency. But I guess my preference would be that this be a bridge to get to the next technology, hydrogen fuel cells, for example. What’s your assessment of whether that’s 20 years or 40 years from now?

Mr. SMITH.   I am a believer that there will be technological breakthroughs. But, I think in our particular case what we have tried to do is to have very practical recommendations on what today’s technology is rather than, to use an old aviation term, you know, have a wish and a prayer that these technologies will be produced in the future.

The CEO of Auto Nation, came by to see me long ago and he gave me a chart that showed fuel economy ranked number 12 in buying choice reasons.  After sound systems, interior conveniences, seating capacity, ergonomics, in fact, it was even after cup holders.  The same thing actually applies in the industrial truck sector because the market responds to what’s here and now.

Senator DORGAN.  I, and several others, have been pushing very hard to move more aggressively toward a different technology future using hydrogen and fuel cells, where you get water vapor coming out the tail pipe. You get twice the efficiency of power to the wheel and hydrogen is everywhere. And so, ultimately I want to disconnect from our need and demand for oil. Now that’s not going to happen quickly but we need to make that happen at some point.  I especially want to find a way to pole vault to a different kind of energy future. More specifically from my standpoint, it ought to be a hydrogen fuel cell future.

The Commerce Committee today passed new CAFE standards. These are auto efficiency standards and I was a part of it. CAFE is a significant part of the SAFE Act, which I’m pleased about, but I know the administration will probably view this as a mandate, which in fact it is. What will be the administration’s position? I know the President has indicated he would not support a mandate. He thinks it should be voluntary and so on. Are we going to be facing a veto threat?

I would like, Secretary Karsner to really urge the administration to take a new look. The last time they testified before the Commerce Committee on this subject not many weeks ago, the refrain was, ‘‘Yes voluntary standards. Yes, improve it, but voluntarily.

No mandates. No regulation.’’ It seems to me all of us have to give a little here. And the only way to make progress on efficiency is not by saying to the auto industry, please help us. I mean we’ve seen for 25 years very, very little progress in this area. I think that this panel says it right and I think the Commerce Committee said it right this morning. It is time for us to take some aggressive and some bold action. And I hope you will pass that word back to the administration. We all ought to be working on the same sheet here and that is regulation. It should be mandatory.


In his 2007 State of the Union Address, President Bush challenged our country to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent within the decade, the ‘‘Twenty in Ten’’ plan. The President called for a robust alternative fuel standard requiring the equivalent of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017. Expanding the mandate established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is expected to decrease projected gasoline usage by 15 percent.

While the Department of Transportation has primary authority for addressing the President’s call to reform and elevate CAFE standards, the Department of Energy invests in the vehicle technologies and attests to their availability to increase fleet efficiency. Those provisions of the bill that broadly support the President’s vision of increasing efficiency alongside technologies to displace fuel consumption are integral to a comprehensive national strategy.

The United States and all major oil-consuming countries currently rely on imported petroleum as our major fuel source.

Secretary Bodman recently announced that the Department of Energy (DOE), under the authority provided in EPACT section 932 will invest up to $385 million for six commercial scale biorefinery projects over the next 4 years and up to $200 million for cellulosic biorefineries at 10 percent of commercial scale.

The question that is most urgently before this subcommittee, I believe, is how many Federal dollars will it take to satisfactorily address our addiction to oil. I suggest to you that there is no amount of Federal spending that can achieve this goal alone, without catalyzing private investment. If we are serious about changing our Nation’s energy portfolio, we must unleash the vast potential and transformative power of our capital markets.

The challenge for large-scale, up-front investments and clean energy is that the potential for outstanding returns must be realized over an extended period of time or the life cycle of the technologies use. This is true whether dealing with the solar roof top, cellulosic biorefineries, large wind farms, nuclear powerplants, energy efficient products like the ubiquitous compact fluorescent light bulb, or even transmission linking our clean energy resources with our national urban load centers.

Though the energy source is domestically available and generates little to no greenhouse gases, uncertainty over a technology’s life cycle risk and cost severely retards the amounts and types of private capital available being deployed. Effective capital formation requires the Federal Government to provide the necessary policy predictability and economic climate that enables massive investments at an accelerated pace. Responsible leveraging of Federal tax dollars to catalyze and accelerate private infrastructure financing and capital flows is essential to enable our national strategy of a new clean energy economy.


Probably the single most important conclusion of the study is that by substantially reducing America’s oil dependency, the economy will be much better prepared to withstand a future oil shock, such as those that hit the U.S. economy and contributed to recessions in 1973–74, 1980–81, and 1991. That is, the ESLC energy package can be thought of as a self-financing insurance policy that will make the economy more robust in good times and more resilient in the face of potential future energy shocks.

  • The fuel economy measures included mandated 4 percent annual increases in fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks, strengthened fuel efficiency standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, and improved Federal Aviation Administration traffic routing for airplanes. Altogether it was assumed that primary oil demand could be reduced by 5.8 million barrels per day (mbd) by 2030 with these steps.
  • The study also assumed that expanded ethanol production could contribute 0.7 mbd for transportation by 2030 and that biodiesel could add 0.2 mbd to production, for a total of 0.9 mbd from biofuels.
  • Finally the study assumed that through a relaxation of moratoria on oil and gas drilling in the outer continental shelf (OCS) and through more rapid implementation of enhanced oil recovery methods, domestic oil and gas production could be boosted by 2.5 mbd by 2030.

We assumed, for example, that in order to achieve higher fuel efficiency, new automobiles would require new engines/motors, advanced controls, electronics, new materials, and batteries and would cost about 10 percent more each year than they did in the baseline scenario. We also took into account the fact that higher ethanol production would require a growing share of U.S. corn production, and that the price of agricultural products would rise as a result, and that ethanol production itself

KEY FINDINGS. Under the ESLC energy policy package, the study found that the U.S. economy will become significantly less oil intensive. By 2030 U.S. oil demand is projected to be 5.9 million barrels per day (mbd) less than in the baseline case, a reduction of 23 percent. In cumulative terms during the 2007 to 2030 period, the ESLC policy package reduces U.S. consumption by 22 billion barrels of crude oil equivalent through conservation and the use of alternative fuels. This aggregate figure is about 3 times the 7.4 billion barrels of crude oil consumed by the United States in 2006.

Compared to the baseline case, the supply enhancements and conservation measures combine to reduce imports of crude oil by 8.2 mbd by 2030, a 47.3 percent decrease. Cumulatively during the 24-year period under consideration, the United States would import 32.2 billion fewer barrels of foreign oil. This figure compares to estimated remaining proved reserves of 4.3 billion barrels for Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and less than 30 billion barrels for the entire United States.

Reduced U.S. demand on the global oil supply should lead to modestly lower world oil prices throughout the projection period. The baseline case assumes a nominal price of oil of $107 by 2030. This study estimates that the price of oil would be $95 per barrel, or about 13 percent lower, with the ESLC policy package. Lower oil imports and lower world oil prices would mean that by 2030, oil imports will be lower by $278 billion per year. During the 2007 to 2030 period, the Nation’s economy will avoid the expenditure of $2.5 trillion for imported crude oil.

R.M. ‘‘JOHNNIE’’ BURTON. thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to discuss with you the actions the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service has taken to reduce U.S. oil dependence and to protect the Nation against supply disruptions. This committee has played an important role in shaping our domestic energy program, particularly with regard to encouraging environmentally sound development of our domestic oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Department and its agencies, including the Minerals Management Service (MMS), serve the public through careful stewardship of our Nation’s natural resources. The Department also plays an important role in domestic energy development. One third of all energy produced in the United States comes from resources managed by the Interior Department. As energy demand continues to increase, these resources are all the more important to our national security and to our economy. The Energy Information Administration estimates that, despite increased efficiencies and conservation, over the next 20 years energy consumption is expected to grow more than 25 percent. Even with more renewable energy production expected, oil and natural gas will continue to account for a majority of energy use through 2030. Interior’s domestic energy programs, particularly offshore oil and gas production, will remain vital to our national energy portfolio for some time to come. The Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) covers 1.76 billion acres and is a major source of crude oil and natural gas for the domestic market. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, if the Federal OCS were treated as a separate country, it would rank among the top five nations in the world in terms of the amount of crude oil and second in natural gas it supplies for annual U.S. consumption.

The Program continues to schedule annual lease sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (the Act), signed by President George W. Bush on December 20, 2006, requires oil and gas leasing in portions of the ‘‘Sale 181 Area’’ in the Central Gulf (2,028,730 acres) and in the Eastern Gulf (about 546,000 acres) Planning Areas as well as the ‘‘181 South Area’’ (5,762,620 acres). The total acreage of new areas in the Gulf offered under the proposed program is 8,337,443 acres. Under the 5-year program, the portion of the ‘‘Sale 181’’ area in the Central Gulf would be included in the October 2007 lease sale, and the portion in the Eastern Gulf would be offered for the first time in March 2008. The 181 South area is scheduled for lease in 2009 following additional environmental studies and requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The leasing program schedules 8 sales in Alaska: 2 in the Beaufort Sea; 3 in the Chukchi Sea; up to 2 in Cook Inlet; and 1 in the North Aleutian Basin—in an area of about 5.6 million acres that was previously offered during Lease Sale 92 in 1985. These areas would be subject to environmental reviews, including public comment, and extensive consultation with state and local governments and tribal organizations before any lease sale proceeds. The program also includes a proposed sale in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area, beyond 50 miles of the coastline of Virginia, in late 2011. This area was included in the 5-year program at the request of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This sale would only take place if the congressional moratorium is discontinued and the presidential withdrawal is modified for this area. This proposed sale area excludes a 50-mile coastal buffer from leasing consideration as requested by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Our analysis indicates that implementing the new 5-Year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program would result in a mean estimate of an additional 10 billion barrels of oil, 45 trillion cubic feet of gas over a 40-year time span,

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Is the U.S. so energy independent we should export crude oil?

[ This is one of several House of Representative sessions discussing energy independence and whether to revoke the energy policy and conservation act of 1975 ban on crude oil export.

The only time so far I have ever seen a cautionary note about the reality of energy independence so far is in this session, in which Rep Bobby L. Rush of Illinois inserts Mason Inman’s “The Fracking Fallacy”, though Rush never brings this evidence up in the hearing.  A Nature editorial describes the findings as: “The EIA projects that production will rise by more than 50% over the next quarter of a century, and perhaps beyond, with shale formations supplying much of that increase. But such optimism contrasts with forecasts developed by a team of specialists at the University of Texas, which projects that gas production from four of the most productive formations will peak in the coming years and then quickly decline. If that pattern holds for other formations that the team has not yet analyzed, it could mean much less natural gas in the United States’ future.” 

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

House 113-187. December 11, 2014. The energy policy and conservation act of 1975: Are we positioning America for success in an era of energy abundance? U.S. House of Representatives. 118 pages.

Excerpts follow:

ED WHITFIELD, KENTUCKY.   This morning’s hearing we are going to be focused on the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), which prohibited the export of crude oil. But as we all know, the trends behind the oil export restrictions have dramatically reversed themselves in recent years. Thanks to advances in hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, domestic oil production has been sharply rising.  In fact, America may soon be producing more oil than it can handle. We will conduct a thorough analysis and give all points of view the opportunity to be heard before we consider whether to take action [to allow the export of crude oil].

JOE BARTON, TEXASI would hope in the new Congress we take a look at the bill that I have introduced this week, H.R. 5814 which repeals the ban on crude oil exports, and it requires a study reported to this committee of what we do with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is a different world today, Mr. Chairman, and when you are number one you use that status. If we allow our producers to export the crude oil that can’t be consumed here in the United States or refined here in the United States, we put pressure on OPEC, we put pressure on Russia, we create jobs here at home, and we make sure that that world price which sets the crude oil price is based on real supply and demand, and that is a good thing for everybody.  [H.R. 5814 was not enacted]

LUCIAN PUGLIARESI, President, Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.  We want to make the distribution of crude oil efficient. That is why we need Keystone. We want to have good regulations. We want to open up the Federal lands a lot more. You know, all this production we have seen has come from Federal lands.

Traditionally, conventional oil had a very modest decline rate, maybe 5 percent, and a pretty high recovery factor, as much as 50 percent. What I don’t think we understand is that, even though we have this very high decline rate in these unconventional resources we have now, but we have to keep drilling, our recovery factor is quite small. Small improvements in this recovery factor are going to make a big difference. That is why we want—you know, we want to see this technology continue to progress.

Deborah Gordon, Director, Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  The bottom line is that oils are changing and a more complex array of hydrocarbon resource is replacing conventional oil.  The truth is we know precious little about these new resources. The Nation needs reliable, consistent, detailed, open-source data about composition and operational elements of U.S. oils. Significant information gaps have accompanied the Nation’s oil—increased oil production.

Several EPCA provisions merit careful review and consideration and possible updating: One, widely expanding oil data collection, making this information publicly available; two, increasing the heavy-duty vehicle efficiency standards for trucks and marine vessels that move the oil and petroleum product that we are trying to consume less of at home; and, three, revisiting oil accounting practices so that the SEC is fully informed about oils that are on tap to bolster U.S. markets.

Do policymakers and the public have sufficient information about America’s oil? Unfortunately, they do not. Ironically, there is more detailed open-source data about OPEC crudes than the oils in the Bakken, Permian, and Eagle Ford. In seeking to obtain and verify these needed oil data, we have encountered several obstacles, from data inconsistencies, to withheld data, to Government limitations on expanding oil reporting.

There are so many reasons why the information is not there. The first reason is that the light tight oils are the newest kid on the block

Another one, having met with DOE, is that apparently the Energy Department can’t really collect data on oil freely. It turns out OMB—and I was kind of flabbergasted when I learned this— but OMB says this is duplication of effort. Industry submits data on oil. DOE doesn’t set reporting requirements for oil. Although, when you read EPCA, there is room for this to happen. It just hasn’t really evolved that way. So DOE is actually only getting the information that industry wants to report out. These are new oils; there is less information reported out. One of our partners tried to purchase data owned by big oil consultancies, and after negotiating about a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars, they were told the data wasn’t for sale because it is competitive. They don’t want the academic sector to compete with the consulting sector. So there a lot of concerns when it comes to oil data, especially as now more oils are out there.

What are the environmental risks these new oils pose?  There are several categories of higher emissions from oils. These include gassy oils, like the Bakken or Nigeria, where gas associated with oil is flared or burned instead of separated and sold; heavy oils, those that use more heat, steam, hydrogen through their value chains to yield more bottom-of-the-barrel products like petroleum coke, a coal substitute; watery oils, which are interesting, like those in California’s San Joaquin Valley where it takes a tremendous amount of energy to lift as much as 50 barrels of water for every one barrel of oil that you produce; and extreme oils like those in the Gulf of Mexico that are miles below the surface or those in the boreal peat bogs in Alberta, where carbon is naturally sequestered.

The heavier oils, don’t preferentially make more gasoline. They make more diesel.

The oil market is one of the least efficient markets. There are so many reasons: barriers to entry, barriers to exit, not enough information, externalities. There is far more efficiency in peach markets than in oil markets.

We have new oils, new conditions, and then we have huge growth in China in terms of demand that is sporadic. It is not going to be red hot consistently. It is a market. And so we do tend to talk about oil at a moment in time, maybe because it is sold on every corner, that it is as if this is the condition that exists for all time. But the reality is it is very dynamic and we could easily return with risks, differential risks, different consumption patterns. Even in America, we are selling a lot more SUVs right now. They are up tremendously.

John A. Yarmuth, KentuckyWhile everything looks wonderful right now with an abundance of oil and petroleum in the world and prices down, that would seem to mitigate against worrying about a crisis. But isn’t it entirely possible that we could return to a 1970s situation? I was a staffer here in the 1970s and remember those lines as well. So would it not be useful to have at least some contingency measure for an international outbreak or a war, terrorism, whatever it may be, that we have some way to protect our domestic supply in case of an emergency?

LOIS CAPPS, CALIFORNIA. This lack of transparency is very concerning not just for our assessment of oil export policy but for conducting proper oversight of the industry in general. If the industry is asking us to lift the export ban, I believe they need to provide the information that is so clearly needed to properly assess the very policy that they asking us to expand upon.

Ms. GORDON. Certainly taking the sulfur out will be fantastic for health and for the environment. But a bigger question with the heavier oils is petroleum coke and what happens with the very bottom of the barrels. So when you put coking capacity into these refineries, you basically remove the middle of the barrel and you end up with a lot more gasoline and diesel, which is good for profit, and then a lot more of a solid substance, called petroleum coke. And we are also exporting that. The U.S. has increased its petroleum coke exports to China 70-fold in the last several years. It is a coal substitute, and it is worse than coal in terms of emissions.

Petroleum coke is the bottom of the barrel after all the liquids from the heavy oil are wrung out in every refining process, but in very small amounts. Though with heavy oils, you have a lot of petroleum coke, a high-carbon bottom- of-the-barrel product. And so, when you put in coking capacity that actually cleaves these molecules, you get more liquids out, which is good, but then you get more solids out of your refinery. Petroleum coke is a solid fuel. If it is a very, very high-quality petroleum coke, which goes into steel and glass and ceramic manufacture. If it is a low-quality coke, high in sulfur, high in heavy metals— this is what comes out of the oil production process—that goes into power production and steam, and then you are basically burning coal. It has about 10 percent higher greenhouse gas emissions than coal and higher nickel, vanadium, sulfur, than some of the worst coals. So when coal is priced high, as it had been recently and before we were exporting a lot of our coal, China wanted petroleum coke because it was an economic benefit for them to burn coke instead of coal. Now prices of coal are low. And so coke is a little bit out of favor. And, if you remember, there was a news release in Detroit about a pile of petroleum coke that got a lot of attention in the press. It is very—it is black. It is voluminous. They are spreading it in Alberta over miles because they can’t export it. So it ends up being a problem. Canada wants to send America the heavy oil so that we can export the petroleum coke since we are closer to ports of call.

Prices have come down so petcoke is really priced to sell. It is very hard to get data on petcoke. It is not traded publicly, but person to person, company to company. Since it is a byproduct of refining and no one really wants to make petcoke, it builds up and you have to get rid of it.  Refiners want to get a lot of money for it. But, if they can’t, they still have to put it into the market. So the price is relatively volatile.

There are definitely things you could do with the fuel-grade petroleum coke. You could take heavy metals and the sulfur out and make it actually a beneficial industrial byproduct, but it is going to cost money to do that.

You have to look at the geopolitics and the kinds of oil that we would be exporting.  The light tight oil has backed Nigerian imports out of the U.S. As we produce more of that oil, we are importing no oil from Nigeria, and that has a geopolitical impact  on Nigeria. I think even though oil is not being used at all as a weapon, it ends up being something that can counteract the peacekeeping and the other efforts that we have in these very fragile nations around the world.

I think that Russia is reeling from the price of oil. It is not our exports that are changing what is going on in Russia right now. It is $60 a barrel oil that is changing what is going on in Russia

The problem we have is twofold. We have had many impassioned proposals to do something to help Ukraine with the Russian crisis and other geopolitical events. But the reality is that our oil and gas are owned by private companies, and they are likely to ship the oil or gas to where the market gives them the greatest profit. Right now,  it is assumed that the market for LNG primarily would be in the Far East, because the premiums there have been much higher than those in Europe. Though now we have LNG prices crashing in Asia to such low levels it is questionable whether we can deliver LNG into those markets competitively. By the time we actually have LNG ready to go, outside contracts have already been signed. Geopolitically, I think the issue of exports is extremely important. Our allies in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are very desirous to have energy from the United States because they see an increasingly bellicose China threatening sea lanes which all of their energy imports come from, not only oil and gas but also coal. I think it does improve our diplomatic status to the extent that we send energy there, but again, these are going to be commercial choices made by the companies that own that oil and gas.

Global production is not site specific anymore and this is also going to happen in refining. The country that added more refining capacity to the world market than any other last year was Saudi Arabia. And China is also adding refining capacity.  Demand growth is happening in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia.  So the whole market is really shifting somewhat. I don’t think you can really draw a circle around North America very easily in this market.

There is certainly some transparency in the market. But I think the best example of why there isn’t enough information in the market is the explosiveness of the rail cars taking Bakken oil. The market really didn’t know the composition of that oil, and the equipment wasn’t really designed to deal with that oil. So I think that we are seeing physical manifestations of the fact that there isn’t enough transparency in this market





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Patzek 2016: Is U.S. Shale Oil Production Peaking?

Tad Patzek.  March 16, 2016 Is U.S. Shale Oil & Gas Production Peaking? Part II: Oil Production.  patzek-lifeitself.blogspot.com

In Part I of this post, I discussed production of gas from the four largest shale plays in the U.S. Ordered by production levels, these are the Marcellus, Barnett, Haynesville and Fayetteville shales. In my mind it is quite unlikely that much new drilling will occur in Fayetteville and Haynesville.  There will be some drilling in the Barnett and plenty in Marcellus, but significantly less than to date.

Based on my calculations in 2015, these plays may deliver between 3 and 7 years of U.S. gas consumption, a far cry from the 100-year gas supply postulated by many experts.

Consistent with this view, for at least three years I have argued that the large-scale oil and gas exports from the U.S. may not be good.

Here I consider the two largest oil plays in the U.S.: the Eagle Ford and Bakken shales.  Eagle Ford is also a significant gas and condensate producer.  At their respective production peaks, these two shales together produced about 3 million barrels of oil per day and destabilized global oil markets on the expectation that both would continue to produce at this high level for several years.

As I show below, oil production from the Eagle Ford and Bakken might have already peaked, and their ultimate production might be 8 billion barrels of oil and 23 Tcf of natural gas.  Both may eliminate 3 years of oil imports into America and satisfy 10 months of natural gas consumption.  While these volumes are quite significant, they are a far cry from the 15 billion barrels of proven recoverable oil reserves “predicted” by the industry experts for the Bakken shale alone.

The plot below shows global production of crude oil and lease condensate in the world in red and the U.S.A. in blue, both relative to the production at the end of 2004.  Notice that between 1982 and 2005, global production of crude oil increased by 20 million barrels of oil per day (20 MBOPD). During the same time period, the U.S. crude oil production decreased by about 4 million barrels of oil per day (4 MOPD).  Therefore, the new field projects outside of the U.S. generated an incremental 24 MOPD.

The rate of crude oil and lease condensate production in the world’s and U.S.a in millions of barrels per day.  Both curves were shifted by subtracting the respective production rates in December 31, 2004, so that the zero level of production corresponds to to this date.

Since 2005, the increase of global production has been numerically equal to the increase of U.S. oil production, which in turn has been dominated by oil production from the Eagle Ford and Bakken.  This means that the output of all petroleum projects outside of U.S. has stagnated; production growth in some projects has been exactly cancelled by declines of other projects. In other words, we are near the peak of crude oil and lease condensate production in the world. And this 10-year stagnation of global production happened despite the record investment in upstream E&P of up to $700 billion per year before the last oil price collapse.

If net increase of global petroleum production is almost equal to U.S. shale oil production, it follows that sales of the Eagle Ford and Bakken crudes controlled to a large extent the global petroleum markets.  Expecting that U.S. oil production would continue increasing, Saudi Arabia refused to cut its production and price of oil collapsed around the world.  It is therefore important to estimate ultimate oil and gas production in both Eagle Ford and Bakken, and possible production declines in both of these plays.  Such an analysis has strong geopolitical implications and here I will tread lightly.

Let me start from showing you the overall energy production from both plays in EJ/year and EJ. 1 EJ = 0.81 trillion standard cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas or 163 million barrels of (equivalent) oil. In 2015, U.S. produced 3.44 billion barrels of oil and imported 2.68 billion barrels.  The U.S. also consumed 27.4 Tcf on natural gas.

Supposing that ultimate total production from the Eagle Ford will be 50% higher than the ultimates reported in the two charts below, 2.7*1.5 = 4 billion barrels of oil and 12 Tcf*1.5 = 18 Tcf will be produced.  Therefore, in total, the Eagle Ford shale might eliminate 1.5 years of U.S. crude oil imports, and satisfy 8 months of consumption of natural gas.

Please click on the image to see it in full resolution.  Rate of total production of oil and gas in the Eagle Ford formation. In EJ/year. The 6 EJ/year at the peak of production is equivalent to 1.6 MBOPD and 6 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day.
Cumulative total (oil+gas) production from the Eagle Ford shale. The ultimate 29 EJ produced is equivalent to 4.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent or 2.7 billion barrels of oil and 12 Tcf of natural gas.

Also supposing that ultimate total production from the Bakken will be 50% higher than the ultimates reported in the two charts below, 2.6*1.5 = 3.9 billion barrels of oil and 3.3 Tcf*1.5 = 5 Tcf will be produced.  Therefore, in total, the Bakken shale might eliminate 1.5 years of U.S. crude oil imports, and satisfy 2 months of consumption of natural gas.

Rate of total production of oil and gas in the Bakken formation. In EJ/year. The 3.2 EJ/year at the peak of production is equivalent to 1.2 MBOPD and 1.6 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day.  The Bakken is less rich in gas than Eagle Ford
Cumulative total (oil+gas) production from the Bakken shale. The ultimate 21 EJ produced is equivalent to 3.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent or 2.6 billion barrels of oil and 3.3 Tcf of natural gas.

I end with this excerpt from an exceptional book, The Captive Mind, by the famous Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, a fellow faculty at Berkeley some years ago, and a winner of Nobel Prize in literature:

An old Jew in Galicia once made an observation: “When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let them thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”

Call me a 60%-right kind of a guy. The number of Americans, who believe that there may be a critical shortage of energy supply in the next 5 years is at an all time low.

Posted in How Much Left, Oil & Gas Fracked, Peak Oil, Tad Patzek | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why aren’t net energy and Energy Returned on Invested the basis of U.S. energy policy?

[ David Murphy doesn’t answer this question, but does give the history of EROI and more importantly, what this means for oil production and society. 

If we are going to spend money on fossil alternatives, wouldn’t it make sense to use EROI as a way of allocating funds to the most promising technologies?  I have yet to find a U.S. House or Senate hearing that mentions EROI, and seldom run across EROI in federal or state documents on energy, which are more concerned with the life cycle analysis of greenhouse emissions and coping with endless growth rather than energy efficiency.  Perhaps they don’t want to find out that the EROI is negative

I extracted the section of this paper that discusses EROI history, and after that, some excerpts from this very important paper about the EROI of conventional and unconventional oil (I’ve left the more difficult technical parts out, as well as most of the charts and figures)

Alice Friedemann  www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

Murphy, David J. December 2, 2013. The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Trans. R. Soc. A 2014 372 

A brief history of energy return on investment

In the late 1960s, Charles Hall studied the energy flows within New Hope Creek, in North Carolina, USA, to understand the migration patterns of the fish within the stream. His conclusions [16] revealed that, by migrating, the fish were able to exploit new sources of food, which, after accounting for the additional energy cost of migration, conferred a large net energy gain upon the fish. In other words, owing to the abundance of food in the new locations, the fish were able to gain enough energy not only to ‘pay’ for the energy expenditure of that migration but also to grow and reproduce. Comparing the energy gained from migration to the energy expended in the migration process was ostensibly the first calculation of EROI.

In the autumn of 1973 the price of oil skyrocketed following the Arab oil embargo (the so-called ‘first oil shock’), which sent most OECD economies tumbling into recession. The apparent vulnerability of OECD nations to spikes in the price of oil led many researchers to focus on the interaction between the economy and energy. Then, in 1974, the journal Energy Policy dedicated a series of articles to the energy costs of production processes. The editor of this series, Peter Chapman, began the series with a paper titled ‘Energy costs: a review of methods’, and observed that ‘this subject is so new and undeveloped that there is no universally agreed label as yet’ [17], and followed up two years later with a second paper [18]. Today this area of research is spread among a number of different disciplines, including, but not limited to, ecological economics, industrial ecology and net energy analysis, and the EROI statistic is just one of many indicators calculated.

Also during this period researchers started using Leontief input–output tables as a way to measure the use of energy within the economy [19–22]. For example, Bullard & Herendeen [23] used a Leontief-type input–output matrix to calculate the energy intensity (in units of joules per dollar) of every major industrial sector of the US economy. Even today this paper serves as a useful model for other net energy analyses [8,24]. In addition, a workshop in Sweden in 1974 and one at Stanford, CA, in 1975 formalized the methodologies and conventions of energy analysis [25,26].

In 1974, the US Congress enacted specific legislation mandating that net energy be accounted for in energy projects. The Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 1974 (NERDA) included a provision stating that ‘the potential for production of net energy by the proposed technology at the stage of commercial application shall be analyzed and considered in evaluating proposals’. Further influential papers by the Colorado Energy Research Institute, Bullard et al. and Herendeen followed this requirement [27–29]. Unfortunately, the net energy provision within the NERDA was never adopted and was eventually dropped.

In 1979, the Iranian revolution led to a cessation of their oil exports (the second oil shock), which precipitated another spike in the price of oil and squeezed an already strained US economy. Responding to this, and in an attempt to control deficits and expenditure, President Reagan of the USA enacted Executive Order 12291 in 1980. This order mandated that ‘regulatory action shall not be undertaken unless the potential benefits to society from the regulation outweigh the potential costs to society’. In other words, all US regulatory action had to show a net monetary benefit to US society, and the idea of measuring benefits in terms of net energy fell even further from the policy arena. Net energy analysis remained insignificant in US energy policy debates until the dispute over corn ethanol emerged 25 years later [30,31].

Although the political emphasis had now shifted towards economic analysis, the 1980s still provided useful papers on net energy analysis (e.g. [32]). In 1981, Hall published ‘Energy return on investment for United States petroleum, coal, and uranium’, which marked the first time that the acronym EROI was published in the academic literature [33]. Later that year, Hall & Cleveland [34] published ‘Petroleum drilling and production in the United States: yield per effort and net energy analysis’. This paper analysed the amount of energy being produced per foot drilled and found that the ratio had been declining steadily for 30 years. Further publications by Hall and colleagues then tested hypotheses relating economic growth to energy use, introduced explicitly the concept of energy return on investment and examined the EROI of most major sources of energy [35,36].

Following growing concern about environmental impacts, climate change and sustainability, documented in the Brundtland Report in 1987 [37], emphasis began to shift from energy analysis to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and life-cycle analysis. Life-cycle analysis (LCA) itself was born out of the process and input–output analyses codified in the aforementioned energy literature of the 1970s and 1980s, and can be used to calculate EROI and other net energy metrics. Beginning around the turn of the century, researchers began to recognize the complementarity between LCA and net energy and began publishing on the matter [38].

There was another surge in publications in net energy analysis in the 2000s, due mainly to a growing global interest in renewable energy, and therefore an interest in metrics that compare renewable energy technologies. The debate about whether or not corn ethanol has an EROI greater than one is a good example [30,31]. There has also been a number of studies using the input–output techniques developed in the 1970s to track emissions production and/or resource consumption across regions [39].

Today, research within the field of net energy analysis is expanding rapidly. The main renewable energy options, including, but not limited to, solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar, wind power and biofuels, have each been the focus of studies estimating their net energy yield [31,40,41]. Furthermore, with the expansion of oil production into ultra-deep water, tar sands and other unconventional sources, as well as developments with shale gas, there has been a renewed interest in whether or not these sources of energy have EROI ratios similar to conventional oil and gas, and publications are expected to be forthcoming.

Abstract.  Declining production from conventional oil resources has initiated a global transition to unconventional oil, such as tar sands. Unconventional oil is generally harder to extract than conventional oil and is expected to have a (much) lower energy return on (energy) investment (EROI). Recently, there has been a surge in publications estimating the EROI of a number of different sources of oil, and others relating EROI to long-term economic growth, profitability and oil prices. The following points seem clear from a review of the literature: (i) the EROI of global oil production is roughly 17 and declining, while that for the USA is 11 and declining; (ii) the EROI of ultra-deep-water oil and oil sands is below 10; (iii) the relation between the EROI and the price of oil is inverse and exponential; (iv) as EROI declines below 10, a point is reached when the relation between EROI and price becomes highly nonlinear; and (v) the minimum oil price needed to increase the oil supply in the near term is at levels consistent with levels that have induced past economic recessions. From these points, I conclude that, as the EROI of the average barrel of oil declines, long-term economic growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost. 


Today’s oil industry is going through a fundamental change: conventional oil fields are being rapidly depleted and new production is being derived increasingly from unconventional sources, such as tar or oil sands and shale (or tight) oil. Indeed, much of the so-called ‘peak oil debate’ rests on whether or not these sources can be produced at rates comparable to the conventional mega-oil fields of yesterday.

What is less discussed is that the production of unconventional oil most likely has a (much) lower net energy yield than the production of conventional crude oil. Net energy is commonly defined as the difference between the energy acquired from some source and the energy used to obtain and deliver that energy, measured over a full life cycle.

A related concept is the energy return on investment (EROI), defined as the ratio of the former to the latter (EROI=Eout/Ein). The ‘energy used to obtain energy’ (Ein) may be measured in a number of different ways. For example, it may include both the energy used directly during the operation of the relevant energy system (e.g. the energy used for water injection in oil wells) as well as the energy used indirectly in various stages of its life cycle (e.g. the energy required to manufacture the oil rig). Owing to these differences, it is necessary to ensure that the EROI estimates have been derived using similar boundaries, i.e. using the same level of specificity for Ein. Murphy et al. [1] suggested a framework for categorizing various EROI estimates, and, where applicable, I will follow this framework in this paper.

Estimates of EROI are important because they provide a measure of the relative ‘efficiency’ of different energy sources and of the energy system as a whole [2,3]. Since it is this net energy that is important for long-term economic growth [3–6], measuring and tracking the changes in EROI over time may allow us to assess the future growth potential of the global economy in ways that data on production and/or prices cannot.

Over the past few years, there has been a surge in research estimating the EROI of a number of different sources of oil, including global oil and gas [7], US oil and gas [8,9], Norwegian oil and gas [10], ultra-deep-water oil and gas [11] and oil shale [12]. In addition, there have been several publications relating EROI to long-term economic growth, firm profitability and oil prices [3,13–15]. The main objective of this paper is to use this literature to explain the implications that declining EROI may have for long-term economic growth. Specifically, this paper: (i) provides a brief history of the development of EROI and net energy concepts in the academic literature, (ii) summarizes the most recent estimates of the EROI of oil resources, (iii) assesses the importance of EROI and net energy for economic growth and (iv) discusses the implications of these estimates for the future growth of the global economy.

Energy return on (energy) investment, oil prices, and economic growth

The economic crash of 2008 occurred during the same month that oil prices peaked at an all-time high of $147 per barrel, leading to numerous studies that suggested a causal link between the two [47,48]. In addition, other researchers involved in net energy analysis began examining how EROI relates to both the price of oil and economic growth [3,13,15,49–51].

Murphy & Hall [3] examined the relation between EROI, oil price and economic growth over the past 40 years and found that economic growth occurred during periods that combined low oil prices with an increasing oil supply. They also found that high oil prices led to an increase in energy expenditures as a share of GDP, which has led historically to recessions. Lastly, they found that oil prices and EROI are inversely related (figure 2), which implies that increasing the oil supply by exploiting unconventional and hence lower EROI sources of oil would require high oil prices. This created what Murphy & Hall called the ‘economic growth paradox: increasing the oil supply to support economic growth will require high oil prices that will undermine that economic growth’.

Other researchers have come to similar conclusions to those of Murphy & Hall, most notably economist James Hamilton [47]. Recently, Kopits [50], and later Nelder & Macdonald [49], reiterated the importance of the relation between oil prices and economic growth in what they describe as a ‘narrow ledge’ of oil prices. This is the idea that the range, or ledge, of oil prices that are profitable for oil producers but not so high as to hinder economic growth is narrowing as newer oil resources require high oil prices for development, and as economies begin to contract due largely to the effects of prolonged periods of high oil prices. In other words, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the oil industry to increase supply at low prices, since most of the new oil being brought online has a low EROI. Therefore, if we can only increase oil supply through low EROI resources, then oil prices must apparently rise to meet the cost, thus restraining economic growth.

Skrebowski [51] provides another interpretation of the relation between oil prices and economic growth in what he calls the ‘effective incremental oil supply cost’.2 According to data provided by Skrebowski, developing new unconventional oil production in Canada (i.e. tar sands) requires an oil price between $70 and $90 per barrel. Skrebowski also indicates that new production from ultra-deep-water areas requires prices between $70 and $80 per barrel. In other words, to increase oil production over the next few years from such resources will require oil prices above at least $70 per barrel. These oil prices may seem normal today considering that the market price for reference crude West-Texas Intermediate ranged from $78 to $110 per barrel in 2012 alone, but we should remember that the average oil price during periods of economic growth over the past 40 years was under $40 per barrel, and the average price during economic recessions was under $60 per barrel (dollar values inflation adjusted to 2010) [3]. What these data indicate is that the floor price at which we could increase oil production in the short term would require, at a minimum, prices that are correlated historically with economic recessions.

Understanding the relationship between energy return on (energy) investment and net energy

The mathematical relation between EROI, net energy and gross energy can be used to explain why, at around an EROI of 10, the relation between EROI and most other variables, such as price, economic growth and profitability, becomes nonlinear. The following equation describes the relation between EROI, gross and net energy [3]: Embedded Image3.2Using this equation, we can estimate the net energy provided to society from a particular energy source or (rearranging) the amount of gross energy required to provide a certain amount of net energy [52]. We can also interpret equation (3.2) as follows: an EROI of 5 will deliver to society 80% of the gross energy extracted as net energy, while an EROI of 2 will deliver only 50%. This exponential relation between gross and net energy means that there is little difference in the net energy provided to society by an energy source with an EROI above 10, whether it is 11 or 100, but a very large difference in the net energy provided to society by an energy source with an EROI of 10 and one with an EROI of 5. This exponential relation between gross and net energy flows has been called the ‘net energy cliff’ [53] and it is the main reason why there is a critical point in the relation between EROI and price at an EROI of about 10 (figure 4).

Figure 4.

Figure 4.

The ‘net energy cliff’ graph, showing the relation between net energy and EROI. As EROI declines, the net energy as a percentage of total energy extracted declines exponentially. Note that the x-axis is in reverse order. (Adapted from Mearns [53].)

Calculating the minimum energy return on (energy) investment at the point of energy acquisition for a sustainable society

According to equation (3.2), as EROI declines, the net energy provided to society declines as well, and, at some point, the amount of net energy will be insufficient to meet existing demand. The point at which the EROI provides just enough net energy to society to sustain current activity represents the minimum EROI for a sustainable society. But estimating empirically the actual minimum EROI for society is challenging. Hall et al. [24] estimated that the minimum EROI required to sustain the vehicle transportation system of the USA was 3. Since their calculation included only the energy costs of maintaining the transportation system, it is reasonable to expect that the minimum EROI for society as a whole could be much higher. Exploring the minimum EROI for a sustainable society is beyond the scope of this paper. Instead, I will examine how, in theory, the minimum EROI could be calculated by using some simple models. I will first do this by examining how the idea of net energy grew from analysing the energy budgets of organisms.

The energy that an organism acquires from its food is its gross energy intake. Let us assume, for simplicity’s sake, that an organism consumed 10 units of gross energy, but to access this food it expended 5 units of energy. Given these parameters, the EROI is 2 (=10/5) and the net energy is 5. It is important to note that the expended energy created an energy deficit (5 units) that must be repaid from the gross energy intake (10 units) before any growth, for example, in the form of building fat reserves or reproduction, can take place.

An economy also must have an influx of net energy to grow. Let us assume that Economy A produces 10 000 units of energy at an EROI of 10, which means that the energy cost of acquisition is 1000 units and the net energy is 9000. Much like organisms, economies also have energy requirements that must be met before any investments in growth can be made. Indeed, researchers are now measuring the ‘metabolism of society’ by mapping energy consumption and flow patterns over time [54].4 For example, economies must invest energy simply to maintain transportation and building infrastructure, to provide food and security, as well as to provide energy for direct consumption in transportation vehicles, households and business, etc. The energy flow to society must first pay all of these metabolic energy costs before enabling growth, such as constructing new buildings, roads, etc.

As society transitions to lower EROI energy sources, a portion of net energy that was historically used for consumption and/or growth will be transferred to the energy extraction sector. This transfer decreases the growth and consumption potential of the economy. For example, let us assume that, as energy extraction becomes more difficult in Economy A, it requires an additional 1000 units of energy (2000 total) to maintain its current production of gross energy, decreasing the EROI from 10 to 5 and the net energy from 9000 to 8000. If the metabolism of the economy remains at 5000 units of energy, Economy A now has only 3000 units of energy to invest in growth and/or consumption (figure 5b).

If the EROI for society were to decline to 2, the amount of energy that could previously be invested in growth and consumption would be transferred completely to the energy extraction sector. Thus, given the assumed metabolic needs of Economy A in this example, an EROI of 2 would be the minimum EROI needed to provide enough energy to pay for the current infrastructure requirements of Economy A, or, to put it another way, an EROI of 2 would be the minimum EROI for a sustainable Economy A. If the EROI were to decline below 2, for example in some biofuel systems [31], then the net energy provided to society would not be enough to maintain the infrastructure of Economy A, resulting in physical degradation and economic contraction

Building off this idea of societal metabolism, we can gain additional insight into the relationship between EROI and economic growth by differentiating between three main uses of energy by society: metabolism, which could be described as the energy and material costs associated with the maintenance and replacement of populations and capital depreciation (examples include food consumption, bridge repair or doctor visits); consumption, which is the expenditure of energy that does not increase populations or capital accumulation and is not necessary for metabolism (examples include purchasing movie tickets or plane tickets for vacation; in general, this category represents items purchased with disposable income); and growth, which is the investment of energy and materials in new populations and capital over and above that necessary for metabolism (examples include building new houses, purchasing new cars, increasing populations).

Implications for the future of economic growth

The implication of these arguments is that, if we try to pursue growth by using sources of energy of lower EROI, perhaps by transitioning to unconventional fossil fuels, long-term economic growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost.

Revolutionary technological advancement is really the only way in which unconventional oil can be produced with a high EROI, and thus enhance the prospects for long-term economic growth and reduce the associated financial, energetic and environmental costs. This technological advancement would have to increase the energy efficiency of unconventional oil extraction or allow for increased oil recovery from fields discovered already [56]. Alternatively, there could be massive substitution from oil to high EROI renewables such as wind or hydropower [57].

It is difficult to assess directly how much technological progress is being or will be made by an industry, but we can get a glimpse as to how the oil industry is faring by comparing how production is responding to effort. If new technological advancements, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, represent the types of revolutionary technological breakthroughs that are needed, then we should at least see production increasing relative to effort. The data, however, do not indicate that this is the case. From 1987 to 2000, when the US oil industry increased the number of rigs used to produce oil, there was, as expected, a corresponding increase in the amount of oil produced (figure 7). But from 2001 to 2012 the trend shows very little correlation between drilling effort and oil production.

[ My note: many energy analysts have postulated that secondary and tertiary methods of extracting oil NOW actually reduce the amount of oil produced later, resulting in production after peak oil being more like a cliff than a bell curve ]


The concept of energy return on investment (EROI) was born out of ecological research in the early 1970s, and has grown over the past 30 years into an area of study that bridges the disciplines of industrial ecology, economics, ecology, geography and geology, just to name a few. The most recent estimates indicate that the EROI of conventional oil is between 10 and 20 globally, with an average of 11 in the USA. The future of oil production resides in unconventional oil, which has, on average, higher production costs (in terms of both money and energy) than conventional oil, and should prove in time to have a (much) lower EROI than conventional oil. Similar comments apply to other substitutes such as biofuels. The lack of peer-reviewed estimates of the EROI of such resources indicates a clear need for further investigation.

Transitioning to lower EROI energy sources has a number of implications for global society. First, it will reallocate energy that was previously destined for society towards the energy industry alone. This will, over the long run, lower the net energy available to society, creating significant headwinds for economic growth. Secondly, transitioning to lower EROI oil means that the price of oil will remain high compared to the past, which will also place contractionary pressure on the economy. Third, as we try to increase oil supplies from unconventional sources, we will accelerate the resource acquisition rate, and therefore the degradation of our natural environment.

It is important to realize that the problems related to declining EROI are not easily solved.

Lastly, it seems apparent that the supply-side solutions (more oil, renewable energy, etc.) will not be sufficient to offset the impact that declining EROI has on economic growth. All of this evidence indicates that it is time to re-examine the pursuit of economic growth at all costs, and maybe examine how we can reduce demand for oil while trying to maintain and improve quality of life. A good summary of these problems is also given in Sorrell [72].

For society, we can either dictate our own energy future by enacting smart energy policies that recognize the clear and real limits to our own growth, or we can let those limits be dictated to us by the physical constraints of declining EROI. Either way, both the natural succession of ecosystems on Earth and declining EROI of oil production indicate that we should expect the economic growth rates of the next 100 years to look nothing like those of the last 100 years.

Posted in Energy Policy, EROEI Energy Returned on Energy Invested | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Much Oil is Left?

[ The production figures below are grimmer than they look because:

In 2005, 60% of world oil production came from just 500 of the giant oil fields of the world, nearly all discovered over 40 years ago (the rest from about 49,000 smaller fields). Therefore, future world oil production depends on the fate of these giant oil fields, because they represent roughly 65% of the global ultimate recoverable conventional oil resources. Of the 331 largest fields, 261, or 79%, are declining at 6.5% per year, and every year the decline rate increases, so by 2030 giants in decline will be doing so at a rate of 9% (non-giant fields decline even faster).  for a full discussion of this, see Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production. If Hook et al are correct, conventional oil production could be as low as 19 mbd in 2030 (see figure 13).

The EROI of unconventional oil is much less, and likely to lead to a net energy cliff rather than a bell curve. Tar sands EROI is between 6 and 1 depending on mined versus in situ, if the energy to move the tar sands from Canada to refineries in the USA is included or not, etc. 

Arctic oil will take decades to find and develop — that is, if we can figure out how to do so, and requires a vast, non-existent infrastructure.  That’s where roughly 25% of all remaining undiscovered fossils exist, about 6 years of global production.

The fracked oil bubble may be popping, so it is likely that Dittmar’s 7.5 mbd of world tight oil may be high.

The actual work of society is done by heavy-duty diesel engines in trucks (tractors, harvesters, long-haul, delivery, logging, mining, cranes, forklifts, construction, etc), locomotives, and ships, the oil that actually matter is diesel fuel, which can only come from a fraction of the 60+ products made from crude oil (i.e. asphalt, propane, etc).  Diesel engines can’t burn ethanol, and 85% of natural gas liquids are used to make plastics and other petrochemicals, not fuel.  See my book “When Trucks Stop Running” for details.

Alice Friedemann  www.energyskeptic.com ]

Dittmar, M. January 29, 2016. Regional Oil Extraction and Consumption: A simple production model for the next 35 years Part I.  25 pages.

Conventional oil production was 71 million barrels per day (mbd) in 2014, and likely to decline to 66 mbd in 2020, 50 mbd in 2030 and 33 mbd in 2050.

Adding all unconventional oil and oil-equivalent liquids, and 2014 refinery gains of about 2.5 mbd, the upper production limit for all liquids will be 93.5 mbd in 2015, declining to 92.5 mbd in 2020, 79.5 mbd in 2030 and less than 62 mbd in 2050.

Laherrere predicts a global conventional crude oil peak at about 73 mbd around 2015-2018, declining to 72 mbd in 2020, 65 mbd in 2030, and 35 mbd in 2050. 

Laherrere’s ALL-LIQUIDS global production peak (including refinery gains) is 94 mbd in 2020, 88 mbd in 2030, 60 mbd in 2050.

[ If Hook et al are correct that the decline rate of conventional oil fields will exponentially increase over time, conventional oil production could be as low as 19 mbd in 2050, not 33 to 35 mbd as Dittmar and Laherrere propose above. As far as all-liquids go, I don’t see how there can be 25 (Laherrere) to 29 mbd (Dittmar) of unconventional oil produced in 2050.  It will be coming from very low EROEI, likely unprofitable sources that the financial system may not be able to lend to in a depression (credit will dry up). Worse yet, these projects will be increasingly using more  conventional oil, so these figures of all-liquids being 60 to 62 mbd, even if realized, don’t reflect that not all of that energy will be available to society at large, as the energy industry consumes increasingly larger shares to produce less and less oil. ]

Russia: rt.com March 17, 2016 Running on empty: Russia has less than three decades of oil remaining and March 9, 2016 Russia may be running out of oil.


ASPO Oil Production overview based on BP statistic Review of World Energy 2015 (using 2014 data) by Steve Andrews

Andrews predicts an 80% chance of peak oil before 2020.

In reviewing BP’s latest Statistic Review of World Energy, the big story for world oil last year was obvious: the USA’s third straight record-breaking increase in average annual production. Just over 75% of the net increase in world oil production during 2014 came from the USA; add in Canada and 90% of the total increase came from North America.  Throw in Brazil’s first significant increase in 3 years and you have all the world’s net gain in world oil production accounted for by 3 non-OPEC playersProduction from all other producers combined was flat.   Peak oil appears close but is not yet here, delayed rather than dead (as widely written in the media since 2012), and disguised by the inclusion of natural gas liquids in BP’s accounting.

Despite all the happy talk about “American energy independence,” our petroleum future includes a peaking in world oil production, and the adjustments that is likely to require.


Ron Patterson. May 5, 2015Peak Russia + Peak USA means Peak World

Ron Patterson. July 14, 2014. World Crude Oil Production by Geographical Area.

Check out the graph “World Less North America” at Peak Oil Barrel which shows world oil production minus North American production is down by 2 million barrels.  Are we starting to see the petticoats of the net energy cliff?  As David Hughes wrote in Drilling Deeper. A reality check on U.S. government forecasts for a lasting tight oil & Shale gas boom, both peak tight (fracked) oil and gas are likely to happen before 2020 in North America.  Powers has also documented this in great detail in his book “Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth” and Arthur Berman discusses peaking oil and gas in the November 12, 2014 James Howard Kunstler podcast #260).



Robert Rapier. Jun 25, 2012. How Much Oil Does the World Produce?

Cornucopians keep coming up with rosy predictions.  This article: Don’t worry, be happy, there’s plenty of oil, natural gas, & coal left has a list of articles that rebut their arguments, good summaries of how much oil is left and why peak oil is nearly upon us.

Finding More Oil

Deffeyes dismisses proposals to simply explore more or drill deeper. Oil was created by specific circumstances, and there just isn’t that much of it. First there had to be, in the dinosaur era, a shallow part of the sea where oxygen was low and prehistoric dead fish and fish poop could not completely decompose. Then the organic matter had to “cook” for 100 million years at the right depth, with the right temperature to break down the hydrocarbons into liquid without breaking them too far into natural gas. Almost all oil, he said, comes from between the hot-coffee warmth of 7,000 feet down and the turkey-basting scald of 15,000 feet down – a thin layer under the surface, and then only in limited areas. We could drill the deepest oil, he said, back in the 1940s.

“More than 70% of remaining oil reserves are in five countries in the Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman,” said Dean Abrahamson, professor emeritus of environment and energy policy at the University of Minnesota. “The expectation is that, within the next 10 years, the world will become almost completely dependent on those countries.”

“In 2000, there were 16 discoveries of oil ‘mega-fields,'” Aaron Naparstek noted in the New York Press earlier this year. “In 2001, we found 8, and in 2002 only 3 such discoveries were made. Today, we consume about 6 barrels of oil for every 1 new barrel discovered.”

The Power of Exponential Growth: Every ten years we have burned more oil than all previous decades

Study this picture. It is why we are going to hit a brick wall, also known as the “net energy cliff”:

exponential 7pct oil needed


Posted in How Much Left, Oil, Peak Oil | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s get rid of invasive species ASAP

Fire ant queens ready for flight. Hemingway, South Carolina. Wiki commons.

Fire ant queens ready for flight. Hemingway, South Carolina. Wiki commons.








[ Invasive species are very expensive to control, costing $1.4 trillion world-wide. The annual cost of impact and control are equal to 5 percent of the world economy. Invasive species reduce the yield and quality of food crops and livestock forage plants, kill trees, lower drinking water quality, reduce energy production, and decrease native biodiversity. Weedy species are expanding exponentially faster than the number of acres treated and restored every year, doubling the number of acres invaded every 8 years.

We need to take action now. Control will be even harder after oil declines, and unlikely to be at the top of the oil-rationing priority list.  On the other hand, we need to be careful about how we get rid of invasive species, since some of the treatment consists of health-harming pesticides. Let’s not repeat the disaster of what happened across the South when massive amounts of toxic chemicals were used to eradicate the fire ant to no effect (see The Fire Ant Wars by Joshua Buhs).

A few of the findings from the  2014 House of Representatives session on “Invasive species management on federal lands”:

  • Over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) in the United States are suffering from invasive plant infestations.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the U.S. spends at least $138 billion per year to fight and control invasive plant and animal species
  • Some of the most damaging Invasive species include Asian Long-horned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth, Sudden Oak Death, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and Cogon grass. Municipal governments across the country are spending more than $1.7 billion each year to remove trees on city property killed by these pests.
  • The maximum economic impact potential of losing 1.2 billion trees from attack by Asian long-horned beetle is $669 billion.
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid has killed up to 90% of hemlock trees in the Appalachians from Georgia to Massachusetts. Loss of hemlock groves threatens unique ecosystems and watersheds.
  • About $16–$44 million dollars of hydropower generation is lost annually due to the salt cedar invasion in the United States.
  • S. agriculture loses $13 billion annually in crops from invasive insects, such as vine mealybugs
  • On a scale of biodiversity destruction, the EPA reports that invasive species rank second only to urban development.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

House 113-18. May 16, 2014. Invasive species management on federal lands. House of Representatives.   72 pages.


Rob Bishop, Utah.  The proliferation of invasive species on our public lands is impacting the health, the landscape, and it is increasing the risk of wildfire, affecting wildlife habitat, impacting the viability of land for multiple use, and perhaps most troubling, it is undermining the efforts of their neighboring land owners, who, unlike the Federal Government, are often taking proactive steps to reduce the threat of invasive species on their lands. This hearing is intended to take a first look at this issue. We are going to hear from the Forest Service about their efforts to tackle the growing threats to the 193 million acres that it manages. The Department of the Interior, unfortunately, chose not to talk to us about the 400 million acres that they manage.

PAUL RIES, Associate Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Invasive species are among the most significant environmental and economic threats facing our Nation.

Aquatic and terrestrial invasive plants, pathogens, vertebrates, invertebrates, algae, and fungi have become established on millions of acres across North America.

These infestations are degrading watershed condition and ecosystem functionality, reducing forest and rangeland productivity, increasing the risk of wildfire and soil erosion, causing declines in recreational use and enjoyment, negatively impacting human health and safety, threatening native fish and wildlife populations and their associated habitats, causing declines in property values, and undermining the economy at all levels.

Invasive species cause billions of dollars in damage each year in the United States. Pimentel et al. (2001) estimated damage from invasive species world-wide totaled at more than $1.4 trillion per year.

Forest Service invasive species management performance is outcome driven, with a focus on treating and restoring priority areas to improve watershed condition and reduce the long-term impacts of invasive species. To achieve this, national forests and grasslands typically treat nearly 400,000 acres of priority aquatic and terrestrial invasive species infestations annually using an integrated management approach. Since 2007, more than 2 million acres of lands and waters have been restored to protect against aquatic and terrestrial invasive species across National Forest System lands and waters.

The Forest Service provides technical and financial assistance to State natural resource and agricultural agencies, tribal governments, and other Federal land management agencies to respond to and manage forest pests that threaten the Nation’s 851 million acres of rural and urban forests of all ownerships.

In FY 2012, Forest Service Research and Development delivered 169 invasive species tools including the identification of key pathways for invasion by new forest pests; methods for detecting, monitoring, and controlling the walnut twig beetle; release and recovery guidelines for biological control agents for emerald ash borer; and an assessment of the potential impacts of hemlock woolly adelgid predators.

The Forest Service International Programs also work to protect our forests from invasive species damage. For example, the program works with Chinese counterparts who have partnered with us to address one of the most destructive invasive forest pests, the emerald ash borer (EAB). The Forest Service continues to work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to better understand why the borer is so resilient and pervasive.

K. GEORGE BECK, Professor of Weed science, Colorado State University, Healthy Habitats Coalition

The data on this particular slide show the number of infested acres in 2009, acreage treated and restored and the increase of infested acres for six Federal agencies that have a responsibility to manage invasive species. Only 3.2% of existing infested acres were treated and restored in 2009. Weed scientists indicate that invasive weeds typically spread at a rate of 12 to 16% a year. Treating and restoring only 3.2% of infested acres annually, coupled with a 12% increase, indicates that Federal infested acres will double by 2017 and will surpass 100 million acres at that time.

Federal agencies are acquiring about 3.5 times more acres of invasive weeds annually than they are treating and restoring. This plan decidedly will never be successful and will continuously produce more and more infested acres, thus preventing realization of land management goals and objectives. Just as importantly, however, these ever-expanding acres of invasive weeds on federally managed lands will serve as a constant source of propagules to disperse to new locations.

These data show the National Invasive Species Council budget, which is assembled by asking the agencies for what they have done, and putting those figures into one of these seven budget categories. The Federal Government spent $1.563 billion in fiscal year 2009 on invasive species management, stating that $642 million was spent on control and management. HHC members have years of experience designing weed management plans, and our calculations differ substantially from the Federal data.

Agencies indicated they treated and restored 1,603,805 acres in 2009. Our calculations suggest the following when early detection/rapid response is budgeted at $1,000 per acre, restoration at $300 per acre, and controlled herbicide at $100 per acre. As you can see, our calculations indicate that far less appears to have been spent on control and management than that stated by the Federal agencies, and there remains about $305 million that cannot be readily placed into one of the next budget categories.

It appears, then, that agencies are spending more money per acre to control invasive weeds than is necessary. The Healthy Habitat Coalition recommends that Federal agencies must treat and restore at least 15% of infested acres annually to overcome this management deficit.

The data in this table show that within 10 years, 19.2 million acres would be treated and restored using this plan, which represents a 39% decrease of infested acres, as opposed to over 120% increase using their current approach over the same time period.

In addition to treating and restoring many more acres annually than Federal agencies currently do, they also must be more efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars. Many university extension professors have spent considerable effort over the past 25 years educating and training Federal personnel about invasive weeds and their management. The inadequate Federal performance in spite of this extensive educational effort by so many also suggests, then, that their efforts are likely insufficient. We, as a Nation, are digressing, rather than progressing, on invasive species management.

Invasive species is an insidious and occasionally sinister economic and environmental issue—it is not new.

The Canada thistle, for example, was first declared noxious in the United States in 1795 in Vermont. A little overgrazing by one user, in this instance, opened the door for invasion of the common area by Canada thistle, which in turn decreased everyone else’s ability to raise the sustenance needed to survive. It was the tragedy of the commons where one person’s use of the environment influenced the next person’s use and invasive species continue to plague us in this fashion to this day.

In spite almost three decades of work with the Federal Government to control and manage invasive species, little progress has been made and what progress that has occurred is grossly insufficient on a national scale. A multitude of taxa require our immediate management attention; zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, Burmese pythons, feral hogs, emerald ash borers, gypsy moths, Asian carp, snakehead fish—the list of invasive species is long.

The Healthy Habitat Coalition’s collective experience, however, is with invasive weeds and we will focus on the continued growth of various weed species and the need for better control and management measures on lands and waterways throughout the country. The data in Table 1 outline the amount of infested acres, the amount of acres treated, and the increase of infested acres for the six major Federal Agencies who have jurisdiction over invasive species.

Totals from table 1: Infested acres 49,481,709, Treated & restored acres 1,603,805, Percent treated and restored 3.2%, New Acres Annually 5,769,349, Total Net Infested Acres 53,847,807 (2009), over 110 million acres infested in 2018 due to not enough treatment done per year

As with other integrated management systems for weeds, use of fire to manage invasive weeds must be integrated with other tools such as seeding to provide competition to ward off recovering weed species and allow completion of land management goals and objectives. Burning mixed brush-cheatgrass stands destroys some to many weed seeds and allows for about one season to establish desirable vegetation before cheatgrass re-establishes and dominates the site again

Establishing competitive perennial grass species may successfully keep cheatgrass from re-establishing. If, however, the system is left alone after burning, cheatgrass or medusahead will re-invade. Burning stands of yellow starthistle also will provide excellent population control if combined with herbicide treatment and seeding (DiTomaso et al. 2006b). Burning stands of perennial weeds such as Canada thistle, leafy spurge, Russian and other knapweeds, or tamarisk rarely is effective because of the plants’ capability to re-grow from its root system and dominate a site again.

These and other similar invasive weeds may recover soon enough after a prescribed burn to preclude establishment of seeded species. If fire is used to control perennial forbs or grasses, herbicides likely will have to be integrated into the management system to allow sufficient suppression of the target weed for a long enough time to give seeded species the opportunity to establish.

The decision to do nothing seems inexpensive and harmless on the surface but nothing could be farther from reality. The problem with invasive species is their populations always seem to expand and cause harm, albeit, a species can be problematic in one location or setting and not another. Most invasive species and certainly invasive weed populations develop in a sigmoid curve pattern and after a lag time following introduction, their populations increase exponentially until site saturation when their populations are limited by resource availability.

The problem is one never knows where on the curve the population at any given population lies. Even with cheatgrass, the invaded location/site might be new and at the bottom of the curve when population control is most easily obtained or it could be at beginning of the exponential phase but it is difficult at best to make such a determination. The best response is to NEVER DO NOTHING because doing nothing can be the most expensive decision one can make due to the subsequent population growth by the invasive weed and the resulting havoc it wreaks upon the native plant community and the animals it supports! Doing nothing simply yields the site to the invasive species.

The least expensive weed to control is the one that is not present—however, prevention is not free. The perception that prevention is simply steps taken to keep stuff out that currently does not exist in a particular location is accurate for certain and possibly represents the greatest cost savings to taxpayers. Cleaning equipment between uses and locations seems a logical prevention approach along with using certified weed seed-free hay, forage, mulch or gravel, and careful screening of ornamental and agricultural introductions can be of tremendous benefit in the battle against invasive species.

Prevention also means decreasing population abundance of existing weed infestations so they are not a source for new ones to develop some distance— close or far— from the infested site.

Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa) was targeted in Colorado where hand pulling twice annually was compared to mowing three times annually, to mowing twice followed by herbicide in fall, to herbicide application alone. Control of diffuse knapweed rosettes and bolted plants was best 1 year after treatments were exerted where a herbicide was used alone or in combination with mowing compared to mowing alone or hand pulling. Herbicides alone were about 1 percent of the total cost of hand pulling and the latter was completely ineffective.

Duncan and Clark (2005) cite numerous examples of the environmental and economic impacts caused by invasive weeds. Pimentel et al. (2005) calculated that invasive species impact the U.S. economy by more than $120 billion annually and $36 billion of this was caused by invasive weeds.

Some examples of plants and plant pests that move in interstate and foreign commerce that have become problems for State inspection, quarantine, agriculture, and natural resource authorities include:

  • Arunda donax; common name giant reed; imported as an ornamental in many U.S. States and now being considered for biofuel production.
  • Pennisetum setaceu; fountain grass; imported as an ornamental and now one of Hawaii’s most damaging invasive plant species.
  • Imperata cylindrica; cogongrass; used as packing material and imported for forage and erosion control. Now an aggressive invasive species problem in the Southern and Eastern United States as far north as Michigan.
  • Anoplophora glabripennis;
  • Asian longhorned beetle; accidentally introduced in wood packing materials; destructive wood boring pest expanding its range in the United States.
  • Agrilus planipennis; emerald ash borer; arrived accidentally in cargo from Asia; first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and since spread to 17 other States in upper Midwest and Northeast.
  • Lythrum salicaria; purple loosestrife; introduced as an ornamental but now prohibited in most States. Considered by some to be the poster child for invasive species.
  • Sturnus vulgaris; European starlings; introduced into New York 1890s and have since spread across continental United States and may even be helping to spread other invasive species such as Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).

A few examples of costs to States for invasive species that have arrived via interstate and foreign commerce and then become established in States are:

  • Emerald ash borer in Ohio projected costs for landscape value losses, tree removal and replacement range from $1.8 to $7.6 billion (in Ohio alone).
  • Data from nine U.S. cities Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Jersey City, NJ; New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Syracuse, NY) indicates maximum economic impact potential of losing 1.2 billion trees from attack by Asian long-horned beetle is $669 billion. Estimates were based upon losses accrued to data.
  • Economic impact by purple loosestrife in 19 Eastern and Northcentral States was estimated to be $229 million annually because of decreased value of wetlands, hay and pasture, fur harvest, migratory bird hunting, and wildlife observation and photography.

RANDY C. DYE, West Virginia Forester, President, National Association of State Foresters 

Forested landscapes cover approximately one-third of the total land area of the United States, including 100 million acres in urban environments. Every American benefits from forests, whether in the form of wood products for construction or paper, neighborhood amenities, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, clean water and air, and even our spiritual well-being. Many Americans’ jobs are linked to trees. The U.S. forest products industry employs nearly 900,000 people; it is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 States.

  • Invasive species know no boundaries; they span landscapes, land ownerships, and jurisdictions. The damage they cause costs the American public an estimated $138 billion each year, which makes them a significant drain on the national economy.
  • Private landowners and small communities are some of the hardest hit by invasive species infestations.
  • Invasive species can be exceptionally damaging in urban environments where ecological systems are already stressed. Invasive species threaten the quality of life and the property values of millions of metropolitan residents across the country.
  • Currently, 42%—400 of 958—of the plant and animal species listed by the Federal Government as threatened or endangered have been negatively affected by invasive species.
  • Invasive species populations have depleted water supplies, poisoned wildlife and livestock, and directly impacted thousands of acres of native forests and rangelands.
  • Public recreational opportunities and experiences have become severely de graded by rapid infestations of invasive species, in many cases hampering access, reducing recreational quality and enjoyment, and decreasing the aesthetic values of public lands

Some of the most damaging Invasive species include Asian Long-horned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth, Sudden Oak Death, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and Cogon grass.  Municipal governments across the country are spending more than $1.7 billion each year to remove trees on city property killed by these pests. Homeowners are spending $1 billion to remove and replace trees on their property and they are absorbing an additional $1.5 billion in reduced property values.

The scope of the impacts of these pests is demonstrated by a brief description of the threats they pose:

  • The Asian Longhorned Beetle kills trees in 15 botanical families—especially maple and birch which constitute much of the forest reaching from Maine to Minnesota and urban trees worth an estimated $600 billion.
  • Emerald Ash Borer occupies more than 200,000 square miles in 18 States. More than 200 million ash trees in the Plains States and additional trees in the South are at risk to this pest. Homeowners and municipalities collectively will pay more than $10 billion over the next 10 years to remove dead ash trees that would otherwise fall and could cause property damage or even loss of life.
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid has killed up to 90% of hemlock trees in the Appalachians from Georgia to Massachusetts. Loss of hemlock groves threatens unique ecosystems and watersheds.
  • Goldspotted Oak Borer has killed up to 80,000 California live oak and black oak trees in San Diego County in less than 15 years. The insect threatens oaks throughout California, including close to 300,000 oak trees growing in greater Los Angeles and Yosemite Valley.
  • Sudden Oak Death affects 143 different plant species and continues to spread in California’s 14 impacted counties as well as Curry County, Oregon. In 2012 alone, nearly 400,000 trees were lost to Sudden Oak Death in California.

Some examples of plants and plant pests that move in interstate and foreign commerce that have become problems for State inspection, quarantine, agriculture and natural resource authorities are:

There are numerous examples of high priority pests arriving via foreign commerce through airport and harbor hubs. Wooden pallets, used in transporting goods have been especially problematic in introducing wood borer insects (e.g. Asian Long- horned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer). These pests are now being spread through a variety of local pathways, with firewood as a major vector. The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) has encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move expeditiously to provide a standardized treatment and certification procedure for the interstate movement of all firewood. The firewood industry is largely unregulated, with little or no national regulatory guidelines outside of pest specific quarantine areas and states. This lack of Federal regulation has led many States to seek or pass their own firewood regulations for specific pests.

Cogon grass, a noxious weed infesting pastures and forests first appeared in Alabama as an escape from orange crate packing in 1912. It was intentionally introduced from the Philippines into Mississippi as a possible forage in 1921 and then introduced into Florida in the 1930s and 1940s as a potential forage and for soil stabilization purposes. It now extends as far north as South Carolina and west to Texas.

Some examples of the associated costs to States for invasive species that have arrived via interstate and foreign commerce and then become established in States are:

The Asian Long-horned Beetle kills trees in 15 botanical families—especially maples and birches which constitute much of the forest reaching from Maine to Minnesota and urban trees worth an estimated $600 billion. Emerald Ash Borer occupies more than 200,000 square miles in 18 States. More than 200 million ash trees in the Plains States and additional trees in the South are at risk to this pest. Homeowners and municipalities collectively will pay more than $10 billion over the next 10 years to remove dead ash trees that would otherwise fall and cause property damage or even loss of life.

JASON FEARNEYHOUGH, Director, State of Wyoming, Department of Agriculture  

Wyoming began its battle with invasive species in 1895 with its first noxious weed law targeting Russian thistle, or what many of you may recognize as the western tumbleweed. At that time, homeowners were limited in their ability to identify the plant and lacked the resources to control the spread of the species. This made it easy for Russian thistle to establish itself throughout the State and the West in spite of the legislature’s well intended efforts. While the law didn’t stop the Russian thistle, it created the foundation for the State’s current weed and pest program. Today, we are able to assist land owners and managers

Because of these programs, the State has eradicated Yellow starthistle (a toxic plant that covers more than 12 million acre in California) and we have kept our waterway clear of Eurasion watermilfoil and the invasive quagga mussel.

This is no longer just an agricultural issue. We have a broader understanding of the impacts these species play on our ecological systems, communities, recreation, and human health.

Teton County Wyoming is situated in the northwest corner of the State and it is approximately 3 million acres in size. Within its boundaries, the majority of land is managed by Federal agencies who oversee Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and the Bridger Teton National Forest. The county’s natural resources draw in millions of tourist annually with visitors from all corners of the world who are potentially bringing noxious weed seeds or non-native insects in their luggage, as hitchhikers on their cars, or as food.

A good regional example of insufficient on the ground support is cheatgrass. Wyoming and many Western States have been working diligently to avoid the listing of the sage-grouse as an endangered species and a primary threat to the species is sage brush degradation due to invasive grasses. Cheatgrass matures quicker then native grasses, is highly susceptible to fire and recovers from fire quicker than native grasses. Sage brush communities historically experience wildfires on a 50 year or more cycle, but cheatgrass can reduce that cycle to 5 years or less which makes it difficult for native sagebrush to re-establish. Simply stated, with no sagebrush there is no sage- grouse.

These examples are based on my experiences as Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, but the issue of lacking resources for invasive species in not limited to my State or the West. Each State has its own set of invasive species issues and management needs. In the Southeast it may be giant African snail or Burmese python; in the Midwest it may be Asian carp or Asian longhorn beetle; in the Southwest it may be feral pigs or fire ants. Looking at these few examples, it’s easy to see how invasive species are costing the United States nearly $120 billion in losses annually. This includes the litany of new invasive plants, insects, and animals USDA–APHIS works to stave off at our harbors and ports each year.

Some examples of plants and plant pests that move in interstate and foreign commerce that have become problems for State inspection, quarantine, agriculture and natural resource authorities.

Many of the invasive species Wyoming deals with were introduced through intra-State or foreign commerce. Wyoming lists 25 plant species as State priority weeds. Some of these plants such as Dalmatian toadflax and Russian olive were deliberately introduced as ornamental plants or trees and have escaped cultivation. Some weeds and pests such as Hoary cress, cheatgrass and emerald ash borer were introduced through packing materials. Other weeds such Russian knapweed and quackgrass likely made their way into the United States through contaminated seed. Many of the aquatic invasive species such as quagga mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil were likely introduced through ballast water discharge or through the aquarium trade.

According to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture they share some similar invasive species issues, in addition to some State specific concerns. They noted varroa mites which were accidentally introduced on the island of Oahu in 2007 from California. The varroa mites have been a significant issue for the contiguous United States since 1987. The introduction to Hawaii is notable as prior to 2007 the State represented a unique location within the United States to produce honey bees without the threat of varroa mites. Some of the more State-specific issues Hawaii deals with include little fire ants and coqui frogs introduced through imported plants, and siam weed and fireweed that were likely introduced through contaminated seed. Little fire ants and coqui frogs are also present in Florida, but are not currently found throughout the contiguous States.

Some examples of the associated costs to States for invasive species that have arrived via interstate and foreign commerce and then become established in States:

The costs of invasive species are staggering from the impacts side. The following is a small collection of the economic impacts from various invasive species.

  • Leafy spurge costs producers and taxpayers an estimated $144 million/year in just four States alone (MT, WY, ND and SD).
  • It is estimated that $16–$44 million dollars of hydropower generation is lost annually due to the salt cedar invasion in the United States.
  • Purple loosestrife is responsible for $45 million/year in agricultural losses for the United States.
  • Colorado wheat farmers estimate loses from cheat grass and jointed goatgrass to be near $24 million annually.
  • S. agriculture loses $13 billion annually in crops from invasive insects, such as vine mealybugs.
  • An aquatic invasive plant, Eurasian watermilfoil, reduced Vermont lakefront property values up to 16% and Wisconsin lakefront property values by 13%. In Wyoming, the local Weed and Pest Control Districts collectively spend over $15 million annually for the management of invasive species. Besides direct management, this includes salaries, equipment and other administrative costs.
  • The State of Wyoming also allocates an additional $350,000 for the management of invasive weeds and another $1.5 million annually for the management of the invasive vector-borne disease West Nile virus.
  • The Wyoming Game and Fish spends $426,000 annually on the inspection of boats for aquatic invasive species.

None of these figures include the costs associated with State quarantines, nursery stock inspection and seed inspection programs that assist in preventing the introduction of new invasive species in Wyoming.

JAMES D. OGSBURY, Executive Director, Western Governors’ Association 

Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species are causing extensive damage across western landscapes, coastal areas and Pacific Islands—and have been doing so for some time. In California alone, over 1,000 non-native species have been identified. All over the region, invasive species are harming natural environments and habitat, recreational uses, shore and marine uses, industrial and municipal uses, grazing, and timber harvests.

Invasions of non-native species are resulting in: Decreased biodiversity of native plants, birds, reptiles, and mammals; Increased vulnerability of native species, some of which are endangered and threatened species; Electrical power outages and disruptions; Physical disruption of water supply systems and increased flood damage; Increased wildfire severity (especially from non-native grass); Reduced value of Federal, State and private lands; and Economic harm to communities.

Let me illustrate the Governors’ concerns with several specific examples of invasive species that are now creating challenges for the West: Aquatic Mussels Aquatic invasive species (such as zebra and quagga mussels) are spreading into more western water bodies each year. Western States are on high alert to contain, control, and prevent their proliferation.

The most common sources for the introduction of these species are recreational watercraft and materials sold by aquatic plant and animal suppliers.

Invasion of these mussels result in impairments to water supplies for drinking, energy production, and irrigation.

The economic consequences are severe. For example, the operators and customers of large power plants and water users are spending millions of dollars to clean out zebra mussels from water facilities and additional funds to retrofit those facilities to prevent future invasions.

In addition, native fish and wildlife habitat are negatively impacted when these species become established in streams, lakes, estuaries and other water bodies. Western States have committed significant resources to man watercraft inspection and decontamination stations for invasive species, but this tactic cannot be the only line of defense.

California currently dedicates over $7 million annually to prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels into and within State. Decontaminating quagga/zebra mussel fouled watercraft at their source, especially federally managed water bodies, such as Lake Mead National Recreation Area, is essential, or we will continue to witness the spread of quagga and zebra mussel to new areas in the Western United States.

These growing costs do not include local reservoir prevention program or control expenses for water agencies in southern California, including the Metropolitan Water District, which currently spends millions of dollars annually to treat infested Colorado River water. Interception—whether at the source or at the borders—is critical for California, where water project control costs can run as high as $40 million dollars annually if mussels infest the system.

Cheatgrass is an aggressive invader of ponderosa pine, mountain brush, and other rangeland and forest areas in the West. Its ability to rapidly grow, reproduce and overtake native grasses makes it especially troublesome on ranges, croplands, and pastures. Where it becomes dense and dominant, cheatgrass can make wildfires even more severe because they burn easily. After a wildfire, cheatgrass thrives and out-competes native shrubby seedlings such as antelope bitterbrush. Cheatgrass can also diminish recreational opportunities, reduce available forage, degrade wildlife diversity and habitat, and decrease land values.

In California, invasive aquatic plants, such as water hyacinth and other invasive plants have proliferated to the point that they obstruct navigation and create hazards for boats and other watercraft; impair recreational uses such as swimming, fishing, and hunting; damage water delivery and flood control systems; alter water quality; and degrade the physical and chemical characteristics of fish and wildlife habitat. California’s aquatic weed control activities cost over $6 million annually.

The National Invasive Species Council defines an invasive species as ‘‘an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.’’ The rapid spread of invasive species remains one of our country’s biggest environmental problems, a situation complicated by the sheer number of invasive species, lack of a coordinated and comprehensive effort to prevent introductions, monitor and survey for new introductions, and the remarkable ability of invasive species to adapt, reproduce and ultimately overtake entire ecosystems.

Invasive species are a global problem. The annual cost of impacts and control efforts equals 5% of the world’s economy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the country spends at least $138 billion per year to fight and control invasive plant and animal species, such as the emerald ash borer beetles that have destroyed millions of trees in the East and Midwest. Invasive species influence the productivity, value, and management of a broad range of land and water resources in the West, ultimately limiting the direct and indirect goods and services these ecosystems are capable of producing.

Over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) in the United States are suffering from invasive plant infestations.

On a scale of biodiversity destruction, the EPA reports that invasive species rank second only to urban development. Invasive species have been identified by the Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service as one of the four significant threats to our Nation’s forest and rangeland ecosystems.

The Western Governors recognize that the spread of invasive species results from a combination of human behavior, susceptibility of invaded environments, and biology of the invading species. These characteristics are not dictated by geopolitical boundaries, but rather by ecosystem-level factors, including climate change, which often cross State borders. Scientists and land managers across the West have expressed the need to develop a strategy for more aggressive invasive species prevention, early detection, and management.

Invasive species have significant negative economic, social, and ecological impacts which include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduction of the value of streams, lakes, reservoirs, oceans, and estuaries for native fish and wildlife habitat;
  • Degradation of water resources for human uses including drinking water, energy production, irrigation systems and other water uses;
  • Decreased real estate property value and increased costs of property development;
  • Detraction from the aesthetics and recreational value of wildlands, parklands, and other areas;
  • Degradation of ecosystem functions and values, including populations of desirable species;
  • Reduction of the yield and quality of desirable crop and forage plants that are important in production of our food supply;
  • Reduction of native biodiversity, resulting in a growing number of threatened, endangered and extinct species (Note: invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States);
  • High cost of control;
  • Reduction of preferred native vegetation important to native fish and wildlife as well as livestock.

Aquatic invasive species such as the zebra mussel, quagga mussel, and Eurasian water milfoil are spreading into more western water bodies each year.

DEBRA HUGHES, Executive Director, New Mexico Association of conservation districts

New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment with diverse ownership and uses. Forty percent of our land is owned by the Federal Government—predominately by U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at 20% and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at 17%; 17% is owned by the State; 10% by the tribes; and 33% by private landowners, but most ranches in the West include ownership and management of private, State and Federal land. NM land uses include ranching and agriculture, oil and gas, and recreation, to name a few. We have diverse wildlife habitat from deserts to mountains; home to deer and elk and much more, including several prominent candidate species such as the Dune Sage Lizard and the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

Specific projects Restore New Mexico has been responsible for include Salt Cedar restoration work along the Delaware River, Creosote Restoration in Last Chance Canyon, Sagebrush and Juniper treatment south of Cuba, New Mexico, reclamation of the Sulimar Oil Field, Henery Tank Mesquite treatments, and Sagebrush shaving adjacent to the Taos Field Office.

Steven A. Horsford, Nevada. Invasive species are a growing problem across millions of acres of Federal land. The spread of invasive species is costing billions of dollars and negatively impacts agriculture, commerce, water quality, and wildlife habitat.  Invasive species monitoring, control, and eradication is time consuming and expensive.  We can probably use our resources better.  In my home State of Nevada, we have massive invasive species issues, the worst being the invasion of the quagga mussel. Cheatgrass and other noxious weeds are also increasing fire risk and impacting sage grouse habitat.

Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming.   Invasive species, like cheatgrass, have great implications for wild fires and Wyoming’s efforts to prevent the listing of the sage grouse, a huge issue for us right now. So, any solution in a State like Wyoming because of the tremendous amount of Federal land ownership, has to involve an effective Federal commitment.


Posted in Congressional Record U.S., Invasive Species | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

U.S. Senate hearing on our aging water infrastructure

[ Even though conventional oil production has been on a plateau since 2005, there is no sense of alarm or urgency to try to fix infrastructure before oil is rationed and not enough exists to replace or repair it. Some day people will ask why energy was used to build skyscrapers, keep roads smooth as a babies bottom in the empty deserts of Nevada, and a million other non-essential uses, instead of fixing dams and replacing century old water delivery systems.  After all, if our hydroelectric dams fall apart, there won’t be any electricity to power the elevators in Trump towers, without water delivery systems we’ll all be drinking lead, giardia and cholera laced water, grow less food as irrigation systems fall apart, be unable to transport goods on inland rivers as locks fail, be unable to cool power plants and have to shut them down, or treat and get rid of sewage wastes.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

USEPA. April 2010. Aging Water Infrastructure. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Science matters newsletter Vol 1 #1

USEPA. April 2010. Aging Water Infrastructure. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Science matters newsletter Vol 1 #1

Senate 113-225. July 25, 2013. Aging Water Infrastructure. United States Senate hearing, 68 pages.


BRIAN SCHATZ, U.S. SENATOR FROM HAWAII.  Today the Subcommittee on Water and Power is holding an oversight hearing on aging water infrastructure in the United States. In 2008 this subcommittee held a similar hearing and we learned then that the maintenance backlog for the Bureau of Reclamation’s water facilities alone exceeded $3.2 billion. Unfortunately this situation hasn’t improved much in the last 5 years. In fact we just witnessed a near disaster right here in the Nation’s capital when water in Prince George’s County was nearly shut off to tens of thousands of residents during the hottest week of the summer due to an aging water main that was about to collapse. This incident has brought much needed attention to today’s hearing topic.

Just this year the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a D or worse for nearly every water infrastructure category on its report card. This is not acceptable because the impacts of a failing water system can be profound. Dam failures pose a significant risk to the safety of our communities and deteriorating water treatment facilities can lead to water borne illnesses.

The Bureau of Reclamation is the Nation’s largest wholesale water supplier serving more than 31 million people, providing irrigation water for 10 million acres of farm land and is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West.

The Army Corps of Engineers maintains over 700 dams with 353 hydropower generating units that can provide up to 25 percent of our country’s hydropower.

As Chair of this subcommittee I often think about the connection between energy and water. The topic of aging infrastructure is a critical component of the energy/water nexus. So much of our water infrastructure is tied to energy.

Hydropower is the obvious example, but water infrastructure is also responsible for irrigation which helps to grow our biofuels and is used for cooling at power plants and used to extract and move energy resources such as coal, oil and gas. When our water infrastructure begins to break down not only do we lose water through leaky pipes, we also waste energy. So aging water infrastructure quickly becomes a topic of concern for those of us interested in the production of energy and energy efficiency.

The economic impacts of unreliable water delivery and waste water treatment services increase costs to businesses and to households. According to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, between now and 2020 the cumulative loss to the Nation’s GDP would be over $400 billion. Disruptions to electric generation due to aging water infrastructure will also increase the cost of electricity to those states and regions that use Federal hydropower.

Many challenges exist in managing and financing the upgrades and repairs needed to mitigate the impacts of aging water infrastructure. Further, severe weather events are increasing stresses on existing facilities. Floods will strain waste water systems and ongoing drought will mean reduced hydroelectric power generation.

LOWELL PIMLEY, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior

Maintaining our infrastructure is becoming more costly over time due to the conditions of some of our components, cost increases in the broader economy and the need for additional facilities, rehabilitation, replacement and extraordinary maintenance.

Most of Reclamation’s major dams, reservoirs and hydroelectric plants and irrigation systems are 60 or more years old. A facility’s age is not the sole measure of its condition, but the condition of each component really is the central factor in the long term maintenance needs of the general asset.

Our large portfolio of water resource infrastructure constantly presents new maintenance, replacement and modification challenges. The aging process will inevitably lead to increased pressure on Reclamation and our 350 operating partners’ budgets. As such Reclamation and the operating entities anticipate infrastructure maintenance needs will continue to grow over time.

We are the Nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, and the 348 reservoirs we administer have a total storage capacity of 245 million acre-feet of water. We bring water to more than 31 million customers and provide approximately 20 percent of western farmers with water to irrigate about 10 million acres of farmland. We are also the Nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power, generating more than 40 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year. In the 111 years since Reclamation’s creation, the Federal government has invested almost $19 billion in original development costs for our facilities. In present value terms, the amount that the Federal government has spent to construct this infrastructure is estimated to be $94.5 billion.


The infrastructure that the Corps helps to maintain includes 705 dams, 14,700 miles of levees, 13,000 miles of coastal harbors and channels, 12,000 miles of inland waterways, 241 locks and hydropower plants at 75 sites with 353 generating units. These projects help provide protection and reduce risk to the Nation, facilitate approximately 2 billion tons of commerce to move on the Nation’s waterways and can provide up to 24 percent of the Nation’s hydropower.

Almost 60 percent of our locks are at least 50 years old. Almost half of our dams at our hydropower plants are more than 50 years old.


As the Nation’s dams, levees, divergent structures and other water resource infrastructure age, decision-makers are faced with the question of whether to operate Federal water projects under the current statutory framework or to alter existing policies to facilitate the repair, rebuilding or transfer of those assets. My testimony will focus on water resource infrastructure owned by the Federal Government. The Federal Government owns water resource facilities with a combined replacement value of about $352 billion. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers are the principle agencies charged with constructing and maintaining these investments, many of which are more than 50 years old.

The second anticipated challenge is financing. Several assessments have concluded that aging water resource infrastructure is likely to become a greater challenge over time due to increasing repair needs and expected flat or declining appropriations

Reservoir Storage Restrictions: According to the Corps and Reclamation, at least twelve federal reservoirs are currently operating at lower storage levels than designed as a result of dam safety concerns, some of which relate to aging infrastructure;

Hydropower Unavailability and Forced Outages: According to agency data, over all hydropower peak availability over the last 10 years was down by about 7% and 9% at Corps and Reclamation units, respectively. Forced outages for both agencies were also up over this same period.

Lock Unavailability: According to Corps data, lock unavailability, which often occurs due to repairs related to deteriorating infrastructure, has increased by approximately 45% over the last 20 years in terms of the number of lock outages and has increased by almost three-fold in terms of hours of repair.


The nation’s neglect of its water resources infrastructure threatens our long-term economic vitality and our national security. This infrastructure is aging and is not being upgraded to meet the demands of this century. Much of what we do every day and many of our economic successes are tied to the availability of water infrastructure. The gradual deterioration of what was once a world class water resources infrastructure can only have deleterious effects on the nation. To this end, I would like to make some points about the aging water infrastructure of the United States:

  1. There is no question that our water infrastructure is aging and that its condition is fragile. Study after study has made this clear. The impacts from having aging infrastructure are substantial and without action they will become critical. Because most of this infrastructure is out of sight and because many fine professionals work every day to keep it operating under difficult conditions, the full extent of the challenge we face is generally not understood by government officials, businesses, and the public.
  1. Climate change will exacerbate the impacts of this aging and will increase the potential for system disruptions and collapse. Climate change could be a ‘‘tipping point.’’
  1. There is a substantial link between the production of energy and the condition of the water resource infrastructure. In many cases these linkages are overlooked or are poorly understood. Energy needs water and water needs energy.
  1. The nation must take steps to address the aging infrastructure problem. It is another case of ‘‘pay me now’’ or ‘‘pay me a lot more later.’’ A failure to act on aging infrastructure will have serious consequences now and will increasingly burden our children and grandchildren. Delay only drives up costs. Priorities must be established based on the risks to public safety and the national economy. A fix-as-fails approach is unsustainable and short sighted.


The nation’s water infrastructure is found in every city and village across our land. It is the dams that provide storage for floodwaters, water supply, recreation, hydropower, downstream navigation, and environmental stewardship. It is in the engineered rivers that carry millions of tons of cargo from farm fields, fuel extraction, and factories to ports and facilities and that drive domestic and international trade. It is the irrigation canals that carry millions of gallons of water to many of the same farm fields. It is the levees, coastal barriers and other flood mitigation activities that provide security for those living in areas at risk of flooding and hurricanes.

The extent of this infrastructure becomes apparent in examining the statistics on the numbers and nature of structures. However, true appreciation emerges in recognizing the diversity behind these numbers. Dams vary in size from the giant (Grand Coulee) to the small (local recreation dams). Major locks and dams on the Mississippi provide 1200 foot chambers for transiting vessels, while small facilities facilitate commerce and recreation on rivers like the Monongahela and the Ouachita. Water and wastewater treatment facilities serve millions of our citizens in metropolitan areas but also provide support to the residents of small villages.

The statistics describe a massive national asset base:

  1. 87,000 dams in the National Inventory of Dams and tens of thousands smaller dams that are not. The average age of the 87,000 dams is 52 years. Of 14,000 high hazard dams, 2000 are deficient. More than half of the 2525 hydroelectric dams regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are older than 80 years.
  2. At least 40,000 miles of levees. Because, in the case of many levees, the current structures were built on top of or integrated within earlier structures, it is difficult to accurately determine their ages. The legacy of many of the major structures dates to the late 19th or early 20th century. Reports by FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers indicate serious deficiencies in many of the structures.
  3. 8,116 miles of irrigation canals for which the federal government is responsible and thousands of miles of canals operated by local sponsors.
  4. 54,000 community drinking water systems with over one million miles of pipe. In 2002, EPA estimated that by 2020 the useful life of 9% of the nation’s drinking and waste water piping will have expired and 36% will be in poor or very poor condition. There are some 240,000 water main breaks each year. Even the National Capital Region is not immune.
  5. 14,780 municipal waste water treatment facilities. The normal life span of such facilities varies by type but is in the range of 25 years for mechanical-electrical components and 50 years for structures. As with drinking water piping, there is no national inventory of wastewater piping but estimates range from 700,000 to 800,000 miles, much of which was installed immediately following World War II and its now at the end of its useful life.  The growing need to develop adequate storm water capacity adds to the challenge. (Capacity limitations of 19th century storm water drainage caused a significant flood in the Washington DC Federal triangle in 2006
  6. 12,000 miles of commercially navigable channels, with over 200 lock chambers.8 More than 50% of the locks and dams have exceeded their design life, and many are over 70 years old.
  7. 300 commercial harbors and 600 smaller harbors. The viability of these facilities is a function of the maintenance of adequate channel and harbor width and depth. The growing size of modern vessels exceeds the current depths of many coastal ports and inadequate dredging has reduced the capacity of many inland ports.

Grading the condition of the water infrastructure

Every four years, ASCE sends the nation a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which grades the current state of its national infrastructure on a scale of A through F. In 2013, ASCE’s most recent Report Card gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+, a slight rise from the 2009 Report Card.

In the water arena all categories were rated at D or below except for ports which were rated C l. ASCE indicates that since 1998, grades in all categories have been near failing primarily due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment.

The cost to the nation to remediate identified deficiencies and support modernization of the national infrastructure by 2020 is in excess of $3.6 trillion.

Unfortunately, the exact condition of the infrastructure is not accurately known and aging continues. Recent reports on dams and levees indicate that in the case of levees both the exact location and condition of a substantial percentage of the national levee stock is unknown. In the case of dams, lack of funding for inspections and differences among standards applied by states call into question the uniformity and arguably the reliability of the assessments that are made. Some dams such as those related to mine tailings receive only cursory review emphasizing only the potential risks to miners and not necessarily to surrounding communities. Water and wastewater systems are buried, and even with sophisticated technologies, accurate assessment of their condition is difficult and costly to obtain.

Much of the national water infrastructure has exceeded its design life and some is approaching the century mark. Major levee failures such as those in New Orleans result in billions of dollars of damages. Dam failures in the past have resulted in significant loss of life. As was illustrated in the weeks following Superstorm Sandy, loss of water and wastewater systems can bring communities to their knees and shut down all economic activity. Offices are unable to open and factories are unable to produce. When flood structures fail or their capacity is exceeded, transportation corridors are closed and health and sanitation facilities become inaccessible.


According to the 2011 study, America’s Climate Choices, conducted by the National Research Council at the behest of U.S. Congress (P.L. 110-161), ‘‘. . .climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.’’ The study points out the potential for sea level rise and large storms to result in significant coastal erosion and for more intense rainfall to increase the probability of flooding in selected areas around the nation. The study notes that these threats make it ‘‘prudent to design the infrastructure for transportation, water, and utilities to withstand a range of weather extremes including intense rainfall flooding and drought scenarios. . .

  • A Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment14, released earlier this year, found that:  ‘‘Summer droughts are expected to intensify in most regions of the U.S., with longer term reductions in water availability in the Southwest, Southeast, and Hawai’i [sic] in response to both rising temperatures and changes in precipitation.
  • Floods are projected to intensify in most regions of the U.S., even in areas where average annual precipitation is projected to decline, but especially in areas that are expected to become wetter, such as the Midwest and the Northeast.
  • Expected changes in precipitation and land use in aquifer recharge areas, combined with changes in demand for groundwater over time, will affect groundwater availability in ways that are not well monitored or understood.
  • Sea level rise, storms and storm surges, and changes in surface and groundwater use patterns are expected to challenge the sustainability of coastal freshwater aquifers and wetlands.’’
  • The assessment also reports that the ‘‘reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions. . ..’’

The 2012 report by a task committee of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, identifies many of the same impacts.

Growth in population will also influence the need for infrastructure activity. The U.S. Census Bureau currently projects that the population of the United States will increase by 27%, 85 million, between now and 2050.  This growth will increase the need for expansion and upgrading of much of the water infrastructure and, as indicated below, will increase the number of people at risk to floods and coastal storms. The aging infrastructure may well be both too old and too small.

In June 2013, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a report indicating the increases in potential flooding across the United States that could result from climate change and population growth between now and 2100.16 ‘‘For the [contiguous US] riverine environment, the typical 1% annual chance floodplain area nationally is projected to grow by about 45%, with very large regional variations. The 45% growth rate is a median estimate implying there is a 50% chance of this occurring. . . 30% of these increases in flood discharge, SFHA, and base floodplain depth may be attributed to normal population growth, while approximately 70% of the changes may be attributed to the influence of climate change. . . for the coastal environment, under the assumption of a fixed shoreline, the typical increase in the coastal SFHA is projected to also be about 55% by the year 2100, again with very wide regional variability. The 55% increase is a median estimate so there is a 50- percent chance of this occurring.’’ Figure 3 provides the geographic distribution of these changes.

Climate and population change will have direct effects on our aging water infrastructure. Structures designed to protect against current or past flooding and coastal erosion threats may not be able to stand up against the forces of larger events or deal with the increased magnitude of these events. Increases in population, will in many cases require current water and wastewater systems to be not only upgraded but also to be sized to the increased demands that will be expected. Additional surface or subsurface storage may be required and older facilities may not be in a position to be modified or expanded. Major storm flows, which are currently stressing many of existing dams and levees, may increase even more under climate change and further threaten those that rely on these structures. Sea level rise is already affecting the US East and Gulf coasts.

Droughts will also increase the stress on water infrastructure. During droughts rivers run low and substantially increase the amount of dredging and other maintenance activities required in channels and at ports. Droughts result in severe stress on water supply systems, whether for agricultural or municipal and industrial use. They also increase the pressure for additional storage or expansion of the water supply storage in existing facilities.


There is a substantial link between water and energy. This should be recognized and addressed in in plans to deal with aging water infrastructure.

In 2012, the heads of 15 of the world’s largest National Academies met in to discuss important scientific issues facing the world community.  The ‘‘Energy and Water Linkage: Challenge to a Sustainable Future’’ was one of three topics addressed by the group. Following the meeting, in which I was fortunate enough to participate as a facilitator, the Academy heads signed a statement identifying the issues they had discussed. In this statement, they reported that:

  • Needs for affordable and clean energy, for water and adequate quantity and quality, and for food security will increasingly be the central challenges for humanity: these needs are strongly linked. . . It is critically important that planning and investment in energy and water infrastructure and associated policies take into account the interaction between water and energy. A systems approach based on specific regional circumstances and long-term planning is essential. Viewing each factor separately will lead to inefficiencies, added stress on water availability for food protection and for critical ecosystems, and a higher risk of major failures or shortages in energy supply.’’
  • They also noted that energy production requires water and that the production of water supplies in adequate amounts and quality requires energy. They pointed out that fossil fuel and nuclear power plants and solar thermal require large water withdrawals and some water consumption and indicated that even use of ‘‘increasingly important ‘unconventional sources’ such as tar sands gas hydrates in gas and oil and tight formations have substantial implications for quantity and quality of water. . .producing alternative transportation fuels, in particular biofuels. . . can involve substantial impacts on water resources and water quality’’ .

Our aging inland waterway infrastructure also has a significant tie to energy production. Twenty-two percent of the nation’s energy products are carried on inland waterways barges that are energy efficient. Inland waterways separate potentially volatile cargo from heavily populated areas. Operating as part of the national intermodal transportation system, waterways also provide alternative routes should problems occur with energy product movement on parallel systems such as pipelines and rail, increasing the resilience of the overall system and the resultant national security.

Hydropower production, although providing only 8 to 12 percent of the national energy pool, provides critical services in many parts of the country. 20th century development in the Tennessee Valley and in the Columbia basin relied on use of low cost hydroelectric power. Many communities are reliant on hydropower for base supply and many others for the peaking power necessary to meet electricity needs during periods of high demand. Many of the nation’s hydropower facilities are aging and, although carefully supervised by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state agencies, require substantial and continuous attention. Again, where rate setting becomes political instead of true cost based, funding challenges will develop.


Filling the information gaps As a follow-up to Katrina, in 2009 a congressionally directed National Committee on Levee Safety reported that considerable attention needed to be paid to the development of an inventory of the nation’s levees and their conditions. Some work has been accomplished by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in addressing levees under their oversight but the work is far from complete and no action has been taken by the Congress on recommendations of the National Committee on Levee Safety. The condition of tens of thousands of miles of levees in the US has yet to be assessed and many of these levees have yet to be precisely located.

Information about the condition of only 75% of the 87,000 dams has become part of a national inventory of these structures. We know where the dams are located and if their failure would pose a threat to those below the dams, but we have yet to complete thorough assessments of the condition of all dams. Some of these dams date to before the Civil War. On a positive note, the condition of the approximately 4000 dams under federal oversight has, for the most part been assessed and continues to be monitored, even if funds to deal with identified problems cannot be fully addressed. Four percent of dams are federally owned and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) provides oversight of an additional 2525 private and public dams.19 In 2007, Section 2032 of the Water Resources Development Act (PL 110-114) directed the President to, within two years, conduct an analysis of the vulnerability of the nation to flooding.

Such an analysis would identify the exposure—what is in the path of a potential flood or storm surge—and the vulnerability of affected communities to such events. Vulnerability reflects the ability of existing flood protection infrastructure to carry out the functions for which it was designed. No funds have been appropriated by Congress for this activity, in the nearly six years since the law was passed and, as a result, no analysis has taken place.

The Environmental Protection Agency has invested resources in gathering information about the condition of water and wastewater infrastructure and has prepared reports that identify the challenge the nations faces in drinking and waste water. Such analyses however represent only estimates and given that much of the infrastructure is below ground, there is considerable uncertainty with the completeness of the survey information.

The inland waterway community has suggested raising the tax on fuel use by their vessels to increase the amount of funding available in the Inland Waterway Trust Fund to carry out needed infrastructure renewal. Legislation to this end is currently being considered in the Water Resources Development Act, but even this self-taxing has opponents who see it as a violation of the ‘no new taxes’ principle.

Much of the infrastructure for ports and harbors is privately or non-federal government owned as opposed to being supported by the federal government. Various approaches have been used to successfully modernize the on-land infrastructure necessary to operate the ports. Funding of dredging to maintain channel depth and width is shared by the federal government and local sponsors and, where the federal government does not have plans for its share of the work, local sponsors must either assume the entire cost or live with the consequences of inefficiently sized channels.

Similarly a large percentage of dams are privately or non-federally owned. There are a few state loan or grant funding sources to rehabilitate dams and some federal funding through the Department of Agriculture Natural resources Conservation Service, but these funds usually only support state or municipally owned dams. Private owners, even the most conscientious ones, typically do not have the funding needed to do necessary safety upgrades.


The nation is faced with an aging water resources infrastructure and with resource significant requirements to properly maintain and upgrade this infrastructure, and to adapt it to the potential impacts of climate change and growth. Unless there are significant and rapid changes in the national economy and adjustment of long-standing responsibilities, it is unlikely that the federal government will be in a position to fund the needed maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrades. It is more likely that new approaches will have to be taken and that much of the burden will continue to rest at the local level. This fact must be recognized by all concerned.


Continuing to believe or to support beliefs that somehow enormous sums of money will be found by the federal government to completely eliminate this significant national backlog in the infrastructure is unrealistic and support of this belief is unethical. For example, the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act contains provisions that would provide local levee districts access to $300 million annually for levee repairs. Given that the maintenance backlog is estimated to be over $50 billion, it would be foolish for levee districts across the country to believe that all they need do is wait until their turn for funding to deal with the infrastructure deficiencies they currently face. Similarly, putting off other actions such as price rises for services in the hope that they may later be found to be necessary, is unrealistic and deceptive. It should be made clear that federal resources that are available will go to those facilities where there is the highest national interest and need and where the return on investment is highest and the greatest risks to life and property exist.

The nation must take steps to address the aging infrastructure problem. A failure to act on aging infrastructure will have serious consequences now and will increasingly burden the future.

CHARLES KIELY, Assistant General Manager, District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority 

DC Water serves the more than 17 million people who live, work and visit the District every year. We maintain and operate 1,350 miles of water pipe, over 3,700 valves, 4 pump stations, 5 reservoirs, 3 elevator water tanks, more than 9,300 public hydrants that deliver our current water across Washington, DC. The median age of the water system is over 78 years old with some pipes in service today that were installed before the American Civil War.

Once that water is used it is returned to our sewer system that is even older than the water system with a median age of 85 years old. The sewer system has 1800 miles of separated and combined water and storm water lines, 9 base water pumping stations, 16 storm water pumping stations, 12 inflatable dams and a swirl facility. The existing sanitary sewer system in the District dates back to 1810.

I have with me an actual section of tuberculated, unlined, cast iron main that we frequently encounter on our drinking water system to bring to the surface what lies deep along the ground in many areas across the country. Tuberculation is the cause of corrosion materials inside the pipe that accumulate over time. As these deposits grow they restrict the flow of water for everyday use and fire suppression. The tuberculated deposits can also impact the quality of the water we deliver and they promote microbiological activity and can cause discolored water and can also impact disinfection. This aging infrastructure that delivers water and sewer services is a vital resource to every home, business and facility in the District, including the Capitol. Our work also affects vital ecosystems and our rivers and waterways. Balancing the delivery of service, improvements in treatment and the cost to ratepayers is one of the largest challenges facing DC water today.

We are ramping up to replace 1 percent of this infrastructure per year, 3 times the rate of replacement in previous years, but still on a hundred year replacement cycle.

Unlike roads and bridges our extensive assets are very deep underground and problems can persist for many years without detection. Some may recall that DC Water was involved in emergency work recently at 14th Street where segments of the road fell down and actually collapsed the sewer that was constructed in 1897. All told the emergency repairs caused most of the intersection to be closed for 11 days.

Emergency repairs are costly and they do not rehabilitate or replace the 100-year-old assets that remain in the ground.

Moreover, extreme weather events place additional stress on the aging combined sewer system. For unusually intense rain events in the summer and fall of 2012 resulted in damaging overland flooding and sewer line backups in homes located in a section of the northeast boundary trunk sewer. This system originally constructed by the Federal Government in the late 1800s was identified as insufficient soon after its construction. More recent development and the associated increase in a previous area only exacerbated the problem.

DC Water is responsible for maintaining approximately 150,000 sewer laterals in public space and we replace approximately 400 per year. A sewer lateral is the underground pipe, typically four inches in diameter that connects the home or business to the main sewer line.

Disruptions from aging infrastructure are not limited to commercial areas downtown. Recently, an 8-inch water main break on a residential street washed out two manholes that extended 50 feet below the surface to a deep sewer. The restoration work took 31 days and ultimately cost our customers over $600,000. While the repair was taking place, DC Water had to run pumps and generators to bypass the sewer flow. The street was closed for over one month causing a major inconvenience to our customers in the neighborhood.



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The dark side of religion: how ritual human sacrifice helped create unequal societies

April 5, 2016. The dark side of religion: how ritual human sacrifice helped create unequal societies. University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Journal article: Watts, J., et al. April 14, 2016. Ritual human sacrifice promoted and sustained the evolution of stratified societies. Nature 532, 228–231

A new study finds that ritual human sacrifice played a central role in helping those at the top of the social hierarchy maintain power over those at the bottom.

“Religion has traditionally been seen as a key driver of morality and cooperation, but our study finds religious rituals also had a more sinister role in the evolution of modern societies,” says lead author of the study Joseph Watts.

Researchers from the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of human History in Germany and Victoria University, wanted to test the link between how unequal or hierarchical a culture was – called social stratification – and human sacrifice.

The research team used computational methods derived from evolutionary biology to analyse historical data from 93 ‘Austronesian’ cultures. The practice of human sacrifice was widespread throughout Austronesia: 40 out of 93 cultures included in the study practised some form of ritualistic human killing.

Early Austronesian people are thought to have originated in Taiwan and, as they moved south, eventually settled almost half the globe. They spread west to Madagascar, east to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and south to the Pacific Islands and New Zealand.

Methods of ritual human sacriifice in these cultures included burning, drowning, strangulation, bludgeoning, burial, being cut to pieces, crushed beneath a newly-built canoe or being rolled off the roof of a house and decapitated. Victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, while instigators were usually of high social status, such as priests and chiefs.

The study divided the 93 different cultures into three main groups of high, moderate or low social stratification. It found cultures with the highest level of stratification were most likely to practice human sacrifice (67%, or 18 out of 27). Of cultures with moderate stratification, 37% used human sacrifice (17 out of 46) and the most egalitarian societies were least likely to practice human sacrifice (25%, or five out of 20).

“By using human sacrifice to punish taboo violations, demoralize the underclass and instil fear of social elites, power elites were able to maintain and build social control,” Mr Watts says.

Professor Russell Gray, a co-author of the study, notes that “human sacrifice provided a particularly effective means of social control because it provided a supernatural justification for punishment. Rulers, such as priests and chiefs, were often believed to be descended from gods and ritual human sacrifice was the ultimate demonstration of their power.”

A unique feature of the research was that the use of computational evolutionary methods enabled the team to reconstruct the sequence of changes in human sacrifice and social status over the course of Pacific history. This allowed the team to test whether sacrifice preceded or followed changes in social status.

Co-author, Associate Professor Quentin Atkinson says: “What we found was that sacrifice was the driving force, making societies more likely to adopt high social status and less likely to revert to egalitarian social structure.”

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