A few days ago I heard a radio talk-show host say we should cut our dependence on foreign oil by using more wind, solar and nuclear power. While this is a popular notion, increasing our use of these sources will do extremely little to reduce our oil consumption.
Reason: Oil-fueled power plants generate less than 1% of U.S. electricity. Most of our power is produced from domestic fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the 12 months ending March 2010, about 45% of our electricity came from coal, 23% from natural gas, 20% from nuclear plants, and 7% from hydroelectric sources.
Renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass and others contributed nearly 4% of our power.
So where does the oil we drill or import go?
Once again, the EIA to the rescue. In March 2010, finished gasoline accounted for 46% of our oil usage. The rest is used in the manufacture of diesel oil, jet fuel, heating fuel, asphalt, plastics, etc., etc.
Which means if we want to reduce our dependence on oil, we need to severely curtail our use of gasoline-powered cars.
Fuel cells, anyone?