Before we begin, let me remind you that I have worked for T. Boone Pickens on the Pickens Plan since 2008, so filter everything that follows through that lens.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy produces a monthly report of how much money we import, how much we've paid for it, and what percentage of our total oil use it represents.
In June, 2012, for instance, we produced about 6.2 million barrels of crude oil per day. That is third most in the world behind Saudi Arabia (10.04 million barrels) and Russia (just behind at 9.89 million barrels).
That's pretty good; six million barrels a day, right?
Problem is, the United States still has the largest economy on the planet - about a third larger than China's which is in second place - and it takes a lot of fuel to … fuel that economy and so we imported 338 million barrels of oil, averaging 10.27 million barrels a day - something in the vicinity of 60 percent of our daily oil use.
There is a common misconception about how much oil it takes to make electricity in the U.S. You hear it on cable chat shows all the time when the conversation turns to solar, wind, or some other form of alternative energy source.
The EPA which knows about these things, has estimated that coal accounts for nearly half our electricity, nuclear is in second with about 19 percent, natural gas is a close third at 18.8 percent; and oil is at three percent - about half the electricity produced by hydro in the U.S.
So, what do we need all that oil for?
Your car. Well, your car and the rest of the 250 million cars and light trucks on American roads burning gasoline that take us and our families to work, to soccer practice, and to the Safeway. Also the more than eight million heavy-duty trucks, running on largely imported diesel, that bring the food to the Safeway, the soccer shoes to the sports store, and take the stuff we make from our work and deliver it all over the country.
You know that the Pickens Plan is all about using natural gas as a transportation fuel. You also know there are precious few natural gas refueling stations in your neighborhood so unless you install one of those devices that allows your natural gas vehicle (NGV) to refuel overnight in your garage, the kids are going to be late for vacation bible school.
Using natural gas as a fuel for 18-wheelers is a different issue. Over the road trucks tend to ru the same routes on a regular schedule and their drivers tend to pull into the same truck stops to eat, rest and refuel so the random nature of refueling passenger vehicles doesn't exist for heavy-duty trucks.