American imports of oil could be eliminated by 2030, a new study by an interstate consortium asserts, if the nation turns to an aggressive program of energy efficiency and commercialization of four already-demonstrated technologies for making transportation fuels.
The study, sponsored by a nonprofit group of legislators and governors called the Southern States Energy Board, urges a crash program to meet fuel needs without imports, a strategy it says will lead to an American “industrial rebirth.” It says that such a strategy could create more than one million new jobs, reduce the trade deficit by more than $600 billion, and end oil price shocks that hurt the economy.
Roger Bezdek, an author of the report, to be released Monday, said that the volatility in fuel prices is driven by the narrow dependence on a limited number of big oil-producing countries as practically the sole source of energy for transportation. “Right now,’’ he said, “if a couple of oil workers get kidnapped in Nigeria, the price goes up $5 a barrel.”
But for the strategy to work, the study said, an expansive investment of private funds would be required, with encouragement from “appropriate fiscal, regulatory, and institutional support mechanisms” for 20 years.
The study also suggested that the current push to produce ethanol from corn as a fuel supplement is largely misplaced.
The four technologies for producing the fuels are profitable when the price of the oil they replace is $35 to $55 a barrel, the study said.
Three are closely related. The one with the biggest potential — estimated to displace 29 percent of imported oil — is making liquid fuels from coal, using the Fischer-Tropsch method.
A second is to take the carbon dioxide created in both that process and other processes and pump it into old oil fields to push more oil to the surface, a technique called enhanced oil recovery.
A third is to use biomass, including wood and crop wastes, as feedstock for factories that make a fuel gas consisting of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. That so-called synthesis gas is the same as that made from coal in the Fischer-Tropsch method and it can then be turned into a liquid.
The fourth is production of oil from shale, a technique tried after the oil shock of 1979, but abandoned when prices fell.